Officials scurry to stifle impact of quake prediction

A flurry of small earthquakes south of San José has generated concern among residents. And that concern was amplified because a Twitter account that claims to be from a Brazilian earthquake forecasting team suggested a more powerful quake was on the way.

Geologists and quake scientists dismissed the claim, and the Red Sismológica Nacional at the Universidad de Costa Rica noted that there were about 3,500 quakes a day in the world.

Still, the forecasters who put the prediction on the Internet noted later that a quake did take place in the El Salvador-Guatemala coastal area. The Red said that was too far away to validate the initial prediction of a quake between Nicaragua and Panamá.

The forecasting group calls itself the Brazilian Earthquake Forecast Studies Team and uses Twitter to publish its predictions. The organization says it uses a powerful triangulation-based algorithm for seismic forecasting.  However, the team’s Web page was suspended Thursday. It said via Twitter that there were problems with the site.

The Red  Sismológica Nacional noted that there is nothing in the scientific literature to support the team’s claim that it can predict earthquakes. The alert was issued around 5 p.m. Wednesday, and the 16-hour window for the quake to take place expired at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Other organizations also joined the effort to dismiss the prediction. However the national emergency commission said that individuals should be prepared for quakes anyway.

Enid Gamboa, president of the Colegio de Geólogos de Costa Rica published a lengthy history of efforts to predict quakes on the organization’s Web page. She noted that such predictions can have a large impact on individuals.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias convened a meeting of some 100 persons in a church hall in Tobosi to discuss quakes. This is in the area where at least 27 moderate quakes have taken place since Dec. 22.

The area is generally bounded by San Miguel and San Antonio de Desamparados as well as Tobosi on the border between the provinces of San José and Cartago. The area is in the mountains south of the Central Valley.

Emergency officials have beefed up their monitoring of the area since Christmas due to the large number of smaller quakes, which ranged from a magnitude of 2.7 to 3.7. Some were felt in the Central Valley.

The latest quake in Costa Rica was at 11:38 p.m. Wednesday in the ocean west of Jacó. It had a magnitude of 3.0.

The meeting of affected residents was supported also by the  Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico of the Universidad Nacional and the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica of the Universidad de Costa Rica, as well as the Red Sismológica Nacional.

Officials noted that Costa Rica is on the so-called ring of fire and is very active geologically.

Although it has not been mentioned in the latest case, officials have said that the Nicoya area is a like spot for a major quake. There is a fault that runs through the Gulf of Nicoya into Nicaragua.

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