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“During the 2010 quake, the rupture zone reached all the way to Navidad. That’s why seismologists at the Universidad de Chile indicate that these could be late aftershocks,” Miguel Ortiz, national chief of the early alert center at Chile’s ONEMI Emergency Office. He also said the recent shaking could be a harbinger of another huge quake to come.

A team of international scientists said the chance of a big, or even great, quake could have increased along a wide expanse of Chile’s coast because of the 2010 quake. Their report in the journal Nature Geoscience last year concluded that it relieved only some of the stress accumulating underground since an 1835 quake that was witnessed and documented by British naturalist Charles Darwin.

Just off Chile’s long coast, the Nazca tectonic plate plunges beneath the South American continent, pushing the towering Andes to ever-higher altitudes. The 2010 quake was so strong it changed time, shortening the Earth’s day slightly by changing the planet’s rotation. The strongest earthquake ever recorded also happened in Chile, a magnitude-9.5 in 1960 that struck about 500 miles south of Navidad and killed more than 5,000 people.

“What strikes me most about Chile is its beauty but also great potential for disasters _ from large earthquakes to volcanic eruptions, much like in California,” said Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Service.

“The big faults are responsible for the big earthquakes but also for beautiful mountains, active volcanoes, and a range of climates _ from very cold to deserts,” Caruso said. “It’s a fascinating place, especially for a geophysicist.”

Navidenos have different ways of coping.

Retiree Carmen Delgado is so haunted by the 2010 disaster that she often stays awake trembling, anxiously waiting for the sun to rise so she can volunteer as a waitress at a local restaurant to keep her mind busy.

“People are afraid because in the past weeks it shook so much,” said Karen Contreras, 18, a waitress at La Boca restaurant, near the mouth of a river that runs down to the ocean from the green hills surrounding the town.

“It’s still trembling, but at least people know where to evacuate if it’s strong,” she added.

At the Divina Gabriela public school, children rush out of classrooms and line up at the sound of a rusty white bell each day. There’s also an annual earthquake drill.

“I keep canned goods, a flashlight and batteries, because we’re scared about these daily quakes,” said Valentina Villagran, 11. “Every kid here knows they should run for the hills.”

Evelyn Perez, 31, who’s studying to become a teacher, was seven months pregnant when she was jarred awake in 2010. She dragged three kids up cold, dark streets without any emergency supplies. Now she keeps a quake bag at her door.

From his porch overlooking the Pacific, Hernan Cepeda, 82, recalls how the tsunami rolled toward him that night. He ended up clinging to the roots of bushes and losing his dentures, almost swallowed by the sea.

“I didn’t return here until last year and now the tremors have brought back memories,” Cepeda said. “It seemed like it didn’t shake as much before. No one can tell what will happen next, but all you hear is that the next one will be an even bigger quake.”


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