Nicaragua Earthquake May Have Measured Magnitude 6.5, But The Country’s New Canal Deal Might Have More Impact

A powerful magnitude-6.5 earthquake shook Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast Saturday at 11:34 a.m. local time (1:34 p.m. EDT), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. At a depth of 22.3 miles, the epicenter of the quake was 31 miles west of the coastal town of Masachapa and 56 miles west-southwest of the capital city of Managua, the USGS reported.

Shortly after the striking of the temblor, the U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami information bulletin. “No destructive widespread tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake and tsunami data,” the center said. “However, earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within a hundred kilometers of the earthquake epicenter. Authorities in the region of the epicenter should be aware of this possibility and take appropriate action.”

And, indeed, authorities in Nicaragua did alert the country’s coastal communities about the possibility of a tsunami as a precaution because of the tremor’s strength, the Associated Press said.

However, Nicaragua appeared to have dodged a seismic bullet as multiple media outlets reported either little or no damage caused by the earthquake. Reuters said the country’s first lady, Rosario Murillo, told local television and radio stations soon after the quake, “Thank God, so far we haven’t heard of any damage.” A bit later, the Nicaragua Dispatch said it had come across unofficial photographs and reports of minor damage to the San Juan Church in Leon, a town roughly 50 miles north of the epicenter of the temblor.

Because of the weak effects of the strong tremor, it thus ranks as the second-biggest newsmaker in Nicaragua this week: Murillo’s spouse, President Daniel Ortega, and Wang Jing, chairman and CEO of the privately held HKND Group, signed Friday an agreement that gives the Hong Kong-based HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. a 50-year concession to possibly build and operate a shipping canal across the country that would compete with the Panama Canal, as AP reported.

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