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Smoke Plumes over Concepcion Chile
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Smoke Plumes over Concepcion, Chile

March 6, 2010
This detailed astronaut photograph of the Chilean cities of Concepción and Hualpén was acquired from the International Space Station approximately seven hours after a magnitude 8.8 earthquake occurred offshore 115 kilometers (71 miles) to the north-northeast. Much of the Chilean coastline is located above the boundary between the converging Nazca and South American tectonic plates. This type of plate boundary is known as a subduction zone. Such zones frequently experience moderate to strong earthquakes as one tectonic plate overrides the other. The largest earthquake worldwide during the past 200 years (magnitude 9.5 in May 1960) had a source region approximately 230 kilometers (140 miles) north of the February 27 quake. While the image is not detailed enough to see damage to individual buildings or roadways, some indicators of earthquake damage are visible, especially in the large version of the image. A dark smoke plume is visible at image lower left near an oil refinery in Hualpén. At image lower right, parts of the road bed of a single-lane bridge over the Río Biobío appear to have collapsed. A smaller, white smoke plume is visible at image right near the Universidad de Concepción. Smoke, probably related to the earthquake, was observed over Santiago in images acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA's Terra satellite less than one hour after this astronaut photograph was taken.


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