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Earthquake shakes Mexico, latest in series of strong quakes around world

April 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A powerful earthquake hit off the coast of Mexico overnight, the latest in a string of strong quakes around the world.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit the Santa Isabel area, which is between the Baja Peninsula and the northern state of Sonora, just after midnight local time.

The temblors woke up residents living near the Gulf of California, but authorities said the quake did not result in injuries or major damage.

These quakes came just hours after a 6.4-magnitude quake struck near a sparsely populated area in the mountains of western Mexico on Wednesday. The quake swayed buildings in Mexico City, which is nearly 200 miles away, causing people to evacuate into the streets.

Seismologists say they came too far apart for the quakes to be related.

"While one earthquake makes others more likely, they're mostly very nearby and smaller and we call them aftershocks," said Dr. Lucy Jones, a USGS seismologist.

Mexico's earthquake followed a cluster of quakes around the Ring of Fire on Wednesday. A 5.9-magnitude earthquake in Oregon preceded the massive 8.6-magnitude quake and 8.2 aftershock in Indonesia.

Other than the aftershocks, seismologists say none of the other four quakes were related or triggered by one another.

"We see constellations in the stars. We like to make patterns out of our random distributions, but we don't see a particular correlation," said Jones.

The one thing that did flag scientists' attention was the size of the Indonesian quake for the kind of fault line. Prior to this, vertical faults have never surpassed the 8.0-magnitude mark.

"It means that scientists are going to have a lot of interesting research to do," Jones said.

The Mexico quake actually triggered two much smaller 2.6-magnitude quakes in California, one near Bakersfield and the other just north of San Francisco.

"It happened as the surface waves from Indonesia were traveling through here. We can see it on our records. You can't feel it, because by the time you get this far away, half way around the world from those earthquakes, all that's left is really long periods of shaking that takes 10 seconds to come up and 10 seconds to go down," said Jones.

Five people died of heart attacks following the Indonesian earthquakes, and there were also some minor injuries. No injuries were reported following the Mexico quake.

A powerful 7.4-magnitude quake hit southern Mexico three weeks ago, but authorities say the recent quakes were not aftershocks of that one.

Last month's big earthquake was felt strongly in the nation's capital, and it damaged hundreds of homes and killed at least two people near the border between Guerrero and Oaxaca states. Mexico's seismological service said that quake has been followed by close to 400 aftershocks, including one of magnitude 6.0.

Will all this recent activity increase the chances for a big quake in California? Seismologists say no. The fact that none of these quakes were related or triggered by one another means that California's chances are just the same as always.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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