Are The Japan & Ecuador Earthquakes Connected Or Was The Timing Just A Tragic Coincidence?

On Saturday evening, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador's northwest coast, causing widespread damage and a death toll in the hundreds. As if that weren't tragic enough, the quake in South America occurred just hours after a similarly disastrous one in Japan. In total, almost 300 people have been declared dead between the two incidents, but recovery efforts are far from over. Given the magnitude of the quakes, the destruction isn't shocking, but the timing of the two tremors seems worrisome — and many have begun to wonder if the earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador are related.

The seismic activity started early Saturday morning in southern Japan, where a smaller quake had occurred earlier in the week. That quake registered a 6.2 on the Richter scale and killed nine people. It was nothing compared to Saturday's quake, though, which registered a 7.0 on the 10-point scale. More than 30 people were killed in the second quake.

As Japan continued search and rescue efforts, a Saturday evening quake rocked the western coast of Ecuador, which sits on South America's Pacific coast. That quake was even stronger than the Japanese one, registering a 7.8 on the Richter scale. By Sunday morning, the Ecuadorian government announced that more than 230 people had been killed by the massive quake. In Ecuador, post-quake landslides made recovery efforts difficult, and many were concerned that the coastal seismic activity would create tsunamis.

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As coincidental as the earthquakes in both Japan and Ecuador may seem, scientists seem certain that a coincidence is the only explanation for the shockwaves. According to the Associated Press, there's no way that the timely quakes are connected to each other. It's true that seismic activity can lead to more seismic activity — you may remember the term "aftershocks" from your middle school earth science class — but that concern doesn't apply in this situation because the distance between Japan and Ecuador is so far.

The coincidence doesn't even suggest that seismic activity around the world is increasing. According to The New York Times, the average number of earthquakes between 7.0 and 7.9 magnitude per year is 15, which is more than one per month. In other words, April may have been right on schedule.

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The earthquakes that occurred in Japan and Ecuador over the weekend were undoubtedly tragic. Relief organizations have jumped into action around the world, and rescue workers in both Japan and Ecuador continue to search for survivors. The tragic coincidence shouldn't necessarily be taken as a warning sign for future incidents, though — at least not in the sense that massive seismic activity elsewhere will now occur as a result of the previous tremors.