The Balao quake caused the ground to become ‘liquid.’


The earthquake, registered on March 18, 2023, in Balao, Guayas province, caused the liquefaction of the soil in certain areas. This phenomenon consists of the sandy soil, which is full of water, losing its ability to support structures.


Mario Ruiz Romero, director of the Geophysical Institute of the National Polytechnic School, explains that this phenomenon occurs in sandy soils with a high water presence. These surfaces are normally firm (solid). But they change when an earthquake occurs.
The earthquake on March 18, 2023, had a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale. The epicenter was in Balao, in Guayas.


“When a soil of this type begins to be shaken by an earthquake, the sandy soil that is full of water behaves like mud and loses the ability to support structures. Sometimes there are collapses of the structures that were built on top of these surfaces”, says Ruiz Romero.

Is the ground back to normal?
Residents of the province of El Oro reported this phenomenon on social networks, which makes the soil look like “jelly.”

This phenomenon can also cause road cracks and release a sandy liquid from the soil. Even the fall of the Puerto Bolívar Coastal Dock in the province of El Oro may be related to the liquefaction of the ground.
The Geophysical Institute specifies that the soil’s properties before liquefaction are recovered once the dripping water is expelled. Then, the sands come together again, and the surface becomes stable.

Why were there these affectations in El Oro?

The earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale, occurred at a depth of 65 kilometers. The Geophysical Institute specifies that the epicenter is under the Island of Puna, in the Gulf of Guayaquil, in front of Balao. And this area is very close to the province of El Oro.

For this reason, the telluric movement of March 18, 2023, caused these effects in the province of Oro. There was also damage in Guayas, Pichincha, Azuay, Los Ríos, Cañar, and Chimborazo.

How did the earthquake occur?
The seismic movement occurred at a depth of 65 kilometers, a distance close to where the subduction of tectonic plates is found. However, Ruiz Romero points out that this earthquake did not originate at the point of contact with these layers.

Subduction is the process in which one tectonic plate slides under another. Telluric movements usually occur in the contact zone of these layers, where they join. However, in the Balao movement, something different happened.

The analysis shows that this earthquake originated in the upper part of the sinking plate (Nazca plate). These details have made specialists consider that the quake was caused by a break or tear within the Nazca plate, the Geophysical Institute specifies.



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