- A new study reveals a worrisome quake history in Panama.
- The revised quake threat comes as the canal is being expanded.
- Of more seismic concern than the canal is Lago Gatun and Panama City.
Two large earthquake faults could expose the Panama Canal to serious shaking and perhaps damage, say geologists who have uncovered 1,400 years of fault ruptures in the area.
Worse than that, however is the threat to Panama City, which houses a third of the nation's population -- many in buildings that could become death traps in a major quake.
The threat comes from the Limon and Pedro Miguel faults in Central Panama which have ruptured both together and separately in the past. A team of seismologists sorted out the history of the past quakes by deciphering extensive changes in the landscape -- like streams offset several feet or meters -- and shifts in at least one historical road.
The analysis on the seismic history and hazards of central Panama was published in the latest issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. The study was done at the behest of the Panama Canal Authority, which is in the process of expanding and upgrading the canal so it can handle much larger ships carrying far more cargo.