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Chile earthquake lifted country's coast eight feet

The Feb. 27 Chile earthquake lifted the ground by the coast by more than eight feet and sunk ground inland by more than three feet, a new study found.

Firefighters work on a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile, Feb. 28, the day after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit the country. The quake moved the city some 10 feet to the west.

Natacha Pisarenko/AP

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The Chilean earthquake that struck on Feb. 27 changed the country’s landscape by raising the ground by more than 8 feet near the coast and sinking land farther inward, a new study finds.

Chile is situated atop a hotspot for earthquake activity, so learning how this magnitude 8.8 quake moved the land will tell scientists more about what causes large earthquakes.

The massive earthquake struck south-central Chile and was the fifth largest temblor ever recorded by modern seismology. A nearby part of Chile gave birth to the largest earthquake ever recorded — a magnitude 9.5 earthquake that struck in May 1960 and killed 5,700 people. Since 1973, 13 quakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have hit the coastal country, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

IN PICTURES: Earthquake in Chile

Scientists have now confirmed for the first time that the 2010 quake ruptured a long fault along the coast of Chile, and found that it raised land to a higher elevation in the south and sunk the Earth's surface in the North, according to the study.

To the scientists patrolling the coast, the change is obvious.

"You can just see the sea shells and sea weed hanging in the air, about head high," said Michael Bevis, a geophysicist at Ohio State University who was not involved with the study but has conducted his own studies of the Chilean coast. "You see all this stuff that belongs underwater is now up in the rocks."


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