Myth 1: A seismic fault is beneath the center of Nicoya.
Reality: Based on research performed up until now, there is NO seismic fault just below the center of Nicoya. However, there is a fault below Nicoya Peninsula which may affect this area. Under the Pacific Ocean, 60 kilometers off the coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, the Cocos Plate, an ocean tectonic plate, collides against the Caribbean Plate, on which the Peninsula lies. The contact between these two plates results in a fault that extends towards the northeast and which lies approximately 15 kilometers beneath the Nicoya Peninsula’s western coast.
Myth 2: Only God knows when an earthquake will happen, so we can’t do anything beforehand.
Reality: In 1975 in China, efforts to predict an earthquake succeeded and many lives were saved by evacuation, but this was a rare exception. Despite much research about the prediction of earthquakes, nobody can predict or forecast earthquakes with solid evidence. However, experience from earthquake disasters all over the world indicates that in the place where an earthquake has occurred before, there will certainly be another one. We can reduce risks by taking into account lessons from previous earthquakes. Locally, the project Preparados Nicoyanos (Prepared Nicoyans) has been developed to prepare people for a future earthquake in this region.
Myth 3: An earthquake will occur when it’s hot.
Reality: An earthquake can hit at any moment and they happen by a movement of a seismic fault that lies deep in the ground, perhaps 15km deep. The heat of the atmosphere cannot reach to that depth, so there is no relation between the temperature of the atmosphere and an earthquake.
Myth 4: The congos howl when an earthquake is coming.
Reality: Although research has been done regarding animal behavior related to earthquakes, there is no solid evidence in this regard. To date, only one academic research study done by a biologist in 2009 showed a relation between animal behavior and an earthquake, citing the disappearance of many toads six days before a magnitude-6.3 earthquake and their return to the area six days after the earthquake.
Myth 5: Nicoya is on top of very strong rock, so when an earthquake happens, it won’t shake very hard.
Reality: The center of Nicoya stands on soft ground like sediment soil. As a result of erosion by rain and rivers, Nicoya Center is almost a plane.
Myth 6: When an earthquake happens, I should get under a “triangle of safety.”
Reality: A “triangle of safety” is the space formed under solid objects such as a sofa, tires or another strong structure that can hold up collapsed objects like walls or roofs. Because an earthquake takes place so quickly, ending up in a triangle of safety is generally a matter of chance.
Myth 7: You should throw yourself to the ground when an earthquake occurs to avoid falling into a crack in the earth.
Reality: The earth will not open up like we see in the movies. When an earthquake occurs in a region near rivers and/or the ocean, a place that has a lot of water in the ground, there is a possibility of a large crack opening, but it is not likely that someone would fall into the crack and die. During an earthquake, it is much better to look around where you are at and to stay in a safer place.
Myth 8: A large tsunami never occurs in Costa Rica.
Reality: There is no record/data to say if a tsunami would occur in Costa Rica or not. Nobody knew that such a giant tsunami could hit Indonesia like it did in 2004 because there was no record/data. In general, in a place where there are coasts and/or huge lakes, the possibility exists of having a tsunami large enough to cause damage.
Myth 9: A tsunami could reach the center of Nicoya.
Reality: No, the center of Nicoya is very far from the coast and the river. A tsunami cannot reach there.
Myth 10: When an earthquake happens, you should brace yourself in the frame of a doorway.
Reality: There is no solid evidence to support this action as a way to protect yourself during an earthquake
SOURCES: Shusuke Irabu, Jica/CNE NICOYA; Roy Acuña Prado, president of the commission of seismic code of the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos
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