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November 2012



On November 7, 2012, a magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck just offshore of Champerico, Guatemala. The earthquake occurred as a result of thrust faulting on or near the subduction zone interface between the subducting Cocos plate and the overlying Caribbean and North America plates, near their triple junction. At the latitude of this earthquake, the Cocos plate moves north-northeast with respect to the Caribbean and North America plates at a velocity of approximately 70-80 mm/yr, and subducts beneath Central America at the Middle America Trench.

Champerico is a port town on the Pacific coast of Guatemala, in the department of Retalhuleu. Various products are shipped to the port for export (coffee, cotton, lumber, and sugar). The country of Guatemala is slightly smaller than the US state of Tennessee, with an estimated population of 14,099,032. Guatemala's climate is tropical: hot and humid in the lowlands; cooler in highlands. Its terrain is mostly mountains with narrow coastal plains and a rolling limestone plateau. Natural hazards facing Guatemala include: numerous volcanoes in the mountains, occasional violent earthquakes, and its Caribbean coast is extremely susceptible to hurricanes and other tropical storms.

The Mayan civilization flourished in Guatemala and surrounding regions during the first millennium A.D. After almost three centuries as a Spanish colony, Guatemala won its independence in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century, it experienced a variety of military and civilian governments, as well as a 36-year guerrilla war. In 1996, the government signed a peace agreement formally ending the conflict, which had left more than 200,000 people dead and had created, by some estimates, some 1 million refugees. In January 2012, Guatemala assumed a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2012-13 term.

CIA World Factbook; The Columbia Gazetteer; USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, 10/2012; 11/2012; 11/2012

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