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Journal of Earthquake Engineering
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New Findings on the 1958 Las Melosas Earthquake Sequence, Central
Chile: Implications for Seismic Hazard Related to Shallow Crustal
Earthquakes in Subduction Zones
Sergio A. Sepulveda
a
; Maximiliano Astroza
b
; Edgar Kausel
c
; Jaime Campos
c
; Eduardo A. Casas
a
;
Sofia Rebolledo
a
;Ramon Verdugo
b
a
Department of Geology, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
b
Department of Civil Engineering,
University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
c
Department of Geophysics, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
To cite this Article Sepulveda, Sergio A. , Astroza, Maximiliano , Kausel, Edgar , Campos, Jaime , Casas, Eduardo A. ,
Rebolledo, Sofia andVerdugo, Ramon(2008) 'New Findings on the 1958 Las Melosas Earthquake Sequence, Central Chile:
Implications for Seismic Hazard Related to Shallow Crustal Earthquakes in Subduction Zones', Journal of Earthquake
Engineering, 12: 3, 432 455
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/13632460701512951
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13632460701512951
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Journal of Earthquake Engineering, 12:432455, 2008
Copyright A.S. Elnashai & N.N. Ambraseys
ISSN: 1363-2469 print / 1559-808X online
DOI: 10.1080/13632460701512951
432
UEQE 1363-2469 1559-808X Journal of Earthquake Engineering, Vol. 00, No. 0, November 2007: pp. 142 Journal of Earthquake Engineering
New Findings on the 1958 Las Melosas Earthquake
Sequence, Central Chile: Implications for
Seismic Hazard Related to Shallow Crustal
Earthquakes in Subduction Zones
xxxx S. A. Sepulveda et al.
SERGIO A. SEPULVEDA
1
, MAXIMILIANO ASTROZA
2
,
EDGAR KAUSEL
3
, JAIME CAMPOS
3
, EDUARDO A. CASAS
1
,
SOFIA REBOLLEDO
1
, and RAMON VERDUGO
2
1
Department of Geology, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
2
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
3
Department of Geophysics, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
On the 4
th
of September 1958, a sequence of 3 earthquakes of magnitude 6.76.9 struck the Andean
Main Cordillera at the latitude of Santiago, Central Chile. The quakes were preceded by a magni-
tude 6.0 foreshock one week earlier. This seismic sequence provided the only documented effects of
strong shaking related to shallow earthquakes in a subduction-zone environment in which seismicity
is dominated by interplate and intermediate-depth intraplate earthquakes. The 1958 earthquake
sequence is reviewed as part of a project of seismic hazard assessment of the densely populated
region of Santiago. We reinterpret historical documents and carried out field observations to obtain
new intensity estimates, and we estimate ranges of peak acceleration values based on geotechnical
back-analyses of earthquake-induced landslides. Estimated peak intensities of 9 and peak accelera-
tions close to 1 g illustrate the significant seismic hazard in areas around active faults in the region
and the need to adapt the building codes to these rare but potentially highly destructive types of
earthquakes.
Keywords Earthquakes; Landslides; Seismic Hazard; Strong Ground Motion
1. Introduction
1.1. Shallow Earthquakes in Chile
Over the last 100 years, 15 earthquakes have caused significant human and economic
losses in Chile. Although the largest events occurred along the coast in an interplate
seismogenic zone with a low-angle reverse focal mechanisms, these were not necessarily
the most destructive events. Intraplate earthquakes with continental epicenters, with inter-
mediate depths and with a lower frequency of occurrence than the interplate events, have
caused significant damage (e.g., the 1939 Chilln earthquake, although it was influenced
by bad quality of construction). A third group of earthquakes in this region comprises
earthquakes with continental epicenters with shallow focal depth (crustal), such as the
sequence of events at Las Melosas in 1958. These occur with a lower frequency than the
Received 16 January 2007; accepted 14 June 2007.
Address correspondence to Sergio A. Sepulveda, Department of Geology, University of Chile, Plaza
Ercilla 803, Santiago, Chile; E-mail: sesepulv@ing.uchile.cl
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Las Melosas Earthquake: Shallow Seismicity Hazard in Chile 433
former two types, but due to their shallow depths, they pose a fairly significant seismic
hazard not considered in current seismic building codes [INN, 1996].
Several of the crustal earthquakes associated with active faults in the region of the
Andes Mountain Range have drawn the attention of specialists. Previous studies of limited
instrumental data have concluded that the 1958 Las Melosas sequence included three prin-
cipal mainshocks with magnitudes of 6.9, 6.7, and 6.8 respectively [Lomnitz, 1960;
Piderit, 1961]. More recent well-recorded events, such as the 2001 M = 6.3 Chusmiza
earthquake (northern Chile), and the 2004 M = 6.4 Curic earthquake (central Chile), have
aroused great interest among seismologists and engineers. All of the well-recorded recent
events were shallow (< 15 km depth) with epicenters far from important cities. The events
caused little damage, possibly because of their remote locations. The Las Melosas, Curic
and Chusmiza earthquakes, besides the recent April 2007 (M = 6.2) Aysen earthquake in
Southern Chile, are the only Chilean shallow events to-date that have produced strong-
motion data.
Shallow crustal earthquakes are caused by brittle deformation of the crust under the
tectonic load controlled by subduction. The existence of shallow seismic activity within
the mountain range has been apparent in field studies carried out by several researchers,
among them, Barrientos and Vera [1995] and Barrientos et al. [2004], who studied the
central zone of Chile between 32.5S and 35.5S.
Crustal seismic activity also occurs on the Argentine side of the Andes in the
provinces of Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja. Crustal seismicity is familiar in these
provinces because earthquakes have destroyed the important cities of San Juan and
Mendoza on several occasions. The earthquakes of 1782, 1861, and 1927 are well
known in the city of Mendoza, as well as the large quakes of 1894, 1944, and 1977,
which destroyed the city of San Juan. All of these earthquakes are crustal intraplate
events with focal depths between 10 and 30 km [Zamarbide and Castano, 1993; Castano
and Castano, 1997].
The southernmost part of Chile, Tierra del Fuego, has also experienced shallow
earthquakes, such as the great Punta Arenas quake of 1949. These are interplate events,
generated along the contact between the South America and Scotia plates along the
Almirantazgo Fjord and Fagnano Lake.
Earthquakes in Chile are not exclusive to the fault systems associated with the forma-
tion of the Andes Main Range; there is also evidence of geologically active faults in the
continental crust near the coastal region [Armijo and Thiele, 1990; Herv, 1987; Naranjo,
1987]. Recently, Campos et al. [2002] also found clear evidence of crustal seismic activity
along the coastal zone of Constitucin Concepcin (3537S).
An analysis of historical shallow earthquakes in Chile is generally only possible
through geological studies. The seismological network was installed only recently. The
intensities generated by shallow crustal earthquakes in Chile also attenuate quickly with
distance, so earthquakes in uninhabited zones have gone largely unnoticed. For instance,
the Punta Arenas earthquake of December 17, 1949 (magnitude M
s
= 7.8), occurred in
an uninhabited region, and at a time when there were no local or regional seismic
instruments.
This study is focused on the 1958 Las Melosas earthquake sequence. These events
struck close to the capital city of Santiago, in the interior of the Maipo River valley, where
hydroelectric, mining, and agricultural and most recently, tourist activity, support increas-
ingly large human settlements. The Las Melosas earthquakes can be considered as some of
the few shallow earthquakes of great magnitude with reported damage that have occurred
in Chile. Their study is of considerable importance for the seismic design of buildings and
facilities, despite the few instrumental data available.
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1.2. Geological and Tectonic Setting
Central Chile is located along the convergent margin of the Nazca and South American
plates (Fig.1). The Nazca Plate converges presently at a rate of about 8 cm/yr, although the
rate has varied during the Palaeogene and Neogene from about 415 cm/yr [e.g., Pardo-
Casas and Molnar, 1987; Somoza, 1998; Le Roux et al., 2005]. Due to this tectonic
setting, the Andes in the study area are segmented in north-south oriented morphostruc-
tural units, which are from west to east (Fig.1): the Coastal Cordillera, Central Depression,
Main Cordillera, and Frontal Cordillera [Fock, 2005].
The epicentral area of the 1958 earthquakes is located within the Maipo River drain-
age basin in the Andes Main Cordillera (Fig. 2). The geology of the region [Thiele, 1980;
Fock, 2005] is complex, characterized by extensive outcrops of the Cenozoic volcano-
sedimentary rocks of the Abanico and Farellones Formations, on the western flank of the
Main Cordillera, whereas in the eastern part a sequence of Jurassic and Cretaceous
continental and marine sedimentary and volcanic rocks are disposed in north-south trend-
ing bands, all affected by intense deformation related to the Andes orogeny. Recent volca-
nic rocks and deposits are located to the east of this sequence, whereas Miocene granitoids
are intruded throughout the area.
The heaviest damage produced by the 1958 earthquake was in the valleys of the Maipo,
Volcn and Yeso Rivers (Fig. 2). These valleys were affected by the last glaciation
[Ormeo, 2006], with characteristic U-shapes and steep slopes. They are filled with fluvial
and alluvial sediments of usually coarse granulometry, partially covered by lateral alluvial
fans as well as landslide, debris flow, and mudflow deposits formed by mass movements
generated on the valley slopes and in lateral ravines [Chiu, 1991]. Some glacial till deposits
form small hills with smooth topography on the valleys flanks [Ormeo, 2006]. Important
FIGURE 1 Regional morphostructural map of Central Chile, showing the tectonic setting
and regional geomorphological units. The black box shows the area of study (Fig. 2)
(modified from [Fock, 2005]).
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Las Melosas Earthquake: Shallow Seismicity Hazard in Chile 435
landslide deposits of several cubic kilometres related to Late Pleistocene Holocene, possi-
bly post-glaciation landslide events shape part of the relief in the Yeso and Volcn Valleys
[Abele, 1984; Chiu, 1991]. Ignimbritic deposits generated by Pleistocene volcanic activity
[Stern et al., 1984; Vargas, G., pers. comm., 2006] occur on some of the topographic highs.
The steep rocky slopes are usually covered by colluvium and rock fall deposits [Chiu, 1991].
The region is dominated by a series of folds and faults with an approximately north-
south trend [Thiele, 1980; Fock, 2005] (Fig. 2). A few kilometers east of the 4
th
of
September 1958 earthquake epicentre, a couple of regional west-vergent thrust faults crop
out (Chacayes-Yesillo and Diablo Faults), whereas folds interpreted as fault-propagating
folds by Fock [2005] deform the rocks around the point identified as the epicenter by
Lomnitz [1960]. These deformation patterns indicate the presence of blind faults a few
kilometers below the surface. The Las Melosas sequence apparently involved rupture on
one or more of these faults.
1.3. Historic Seismicity and the 1958 Las Melosas Earthquake Sequence
Little was known about the seismicity of the region until the occurrence of the Las Melosas
sequence. According to historical data available at the Geophysical and Seismological
Institute at the University of Chile, seismic activity had been observed in the Maipo
Valley in 1850, 1870 to 1880, 1905, and 1947 [Flores et al., 1960].
FIGURE 2 Simplified geological map of the Maipo drainage basin [modified from Fock,
2005]. The main geological units are: (1) Mesozoic marine sedimentary and volcanic
rocks; (2) Cenozoic volcano-sedimentary rocks; (3) Miocene granitoids; (4) Neogene
volcanic rocks; (5) Neogene alluvial and fluvial sediments. Main faults and folds are
shown. The location of the 28/08/1958 and 04/09/1958 earthquakes is shown (stars), along
with the location of the studied landslides in this article (triangles) and towns and villages
mentioned in the text (dots).
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The Las Melosas sequence started on the 28
th
of August, 1958, but the events with
greater magnitude occurred on the 4
th
of September, 1958, at 5:50 pm local time. Accord-
ing to seismological reports, this was a sequence of three events in a span of six minutes.
The epicenter was located at the junction of the Maipo and El Volcn Rivers, at a focal
depth of about 10 km (Fig. 2). A composite hypocenter and focal mechanism solution,
using first motion P waves of the first event, was determined by Lomnitz [1960] and Pardo
and Acevedo [1984] as a left lateral strike-slip along a north-south trending fault plane.
The inferred composite focal mechanism, obtained for the three principal main-
shocks, has a strike of N14E and a dip of 78W [Pardo and Acevedo, 1984]; N12E/
79W [Lomnitz, 1960]; or N13E/ 77W [Piderit, 1961]. Recently, Alvarado et al.
[2007], based on P wave modeling, report a strike-slip fault plane with azimuth of 20,
dip of 70 to the south-east, and rake of 30, with a focal depth of about 8 km. The mag-
nitudes (M
s
) of the three largest events were 6.9, 6.7, and 6.8, respectively [Flores et al.,
1960; Piderit, 1961]. The peak acceleration recorded in Santiago, about 65 km from the
epicenter, was 0.05 g.
The 4
th
of September sequence was preceded by several foreshocks of lesser
magnitude. The largest of these occurred at 5:30 local time on the 28
th
of August, and had
a Richter magnitude M
s
= 6.0 [Flores et al., 1960; Pardo and Acevedo, 1984]. The inferred
fault plane for this event had a NS strike and 75W dip [Pardo and Acevedo, 1984].
Table 1 shows the hypocentral data of the previously mentioned earthquakes, as well as of
the largest aftershock.
The epicentral area is a mountainous region about 70 km from Santiago. According to
Flores et al. [1960], the center of this epicentral zone would be at the locality of El Volcn,
where a modified Mercalli intensity (MMI) of IX was estimated. Other populated centers
located within the epicentral zone are Las Melosas and Los Queltehues (Fig. 2).
The 28
th
of August earthquake damaged the facilities of the police summer camp in
Las Melosas; therefore, it had been evacuated before the 4
th
of September. Part of the
personnel at the hydroelectric plants of Los Queltehues and El Volcn had also been
evacuated. Likewise, the town of El Volcn had already been evacuated due to the
landslides that had taken place. This situation, along with the fact that many local
people were at polling booths in the town of San Jos de Maipo because September 4
was election day, left the epicentral region partly deserted, and therefore the effects of
this triple earthquake were minor in terms of the number of casualties. Reports indicate
that the September 4 sequence caused 4 fatalities and 35 serious injuries, and left 175
people homeless.
The earthquakes of the 4
th
of September were followed by 99 documented aftershocks,
which continued until early December, 1958. The magnitudes of these aftershocks varied
TABLE 1 Magnitude and hypocentral data of the largest shocks of the 1958 Las Melosas
seismic sequence
Date and GMT Time
Year/month/day hh:
mm:ss Latitude Longitude Depth (km) Magnitude
1958/08/28 09:36:04 34.0 70.1 15 6.0
1958/09/04 21:51:08 33.9 70.2 10 6.9
1958/09/04 21:52 33.9 70.2 10 6.7
1958/09/04 21:55 33.9 70.2 10 6.8
1958/09/08 22:24:55 34.0 70.0 n/a 5.3
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Las Melosas Earthquake: Shallow Seismicity Hazard in Chile 437
between 3.5 and 5.3, the latter having occurred on the 8
th
of September [Piderit, 1961]
(Table 1).
2. Damage Characterization and Intensity Assessment
Earthquake damage was concentrated in the mining and industrial facilities (electricity
generation and water supply plants) and in single and two-storey houses. Many of the
structures did not have earthquake-resistant designs and were built with materials avail-
able in the immediate area.
Damage to the Queltehues, El Volcn and Maitenes hydroelectric plants affected the
electricity supply of Santiago; the Queltehues plant service was suspended for 180 days.
The water supply of Santiago city was also affected due to the destruction of the Laguna
Negra aqueduct near San Gabriel (Fig. 3). Furthermore, the roads suffered significant
damage due to landslides and rock falls.
Field visits to the damage zone allowed us to study the damage in some ruined
and some repaired structures that are still standing. In many cases, the construction
and material quality were of poor quality; a situation that had been reported by
Lamana [1963].
In this study, we determine intensity values in 15 places located 80 km or less from the
earthquake epicenter. According to Flores et al. [1960], the most severely affected area was
approximately elliptical with 20 km in length and 10 km wide. This zone was visited soon after
the shocks by members of the Department of Civil Engineering of the University of Chile, who
collected information that was reported by Rosenberg [1958] and Flores et al. [1960] and left a
photographic collection [DIC, 1958]. The intensity values in the cities outside of the damage
zone were obtained from information given by the local press [El Mercurio, 1958a].
FIGURE 3 Damage in the Laguna Negra unreinforced concrete aqueduct [DIC, 1958].
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2.1. Types of Construction and Damage
Single and two-storey buildings in the epicentral region can be classified as unreinforced
stone or rubble masonry cemented with mud, adobe houses, quarry masonry cemented
with mortar, diagonally braced wooden frame, and partially or totally confined stone
masonry. With the exception of the last category, all building types suffered very heavy
damage.
Our findings for the performance of each type of construction are as follows:
(i) Unreinforced rubble or stone masonry cemented with mud had very poor earth-
quake resistance and had the worst performance, with partial (Fig. 4) or total
collapse of most structures [Flores et al., 1960]. The damage was similar to that
observed following the Tarapac earthquake of northern Chile of June 2005
[Astroza et al., 2005a].
(ii) Quarry masonry cemented with mortar also had very poor performance. In this
type of construction the walls are reinforced with concrete beams (Fig. 5) that are
designed to help support the roof and avoid the out-of-plane wall collapse.
Damage to these structures was nearly total and partial collapse of the walls and
vertical cracks in walls at intersections (Fig. 5). More severe damage occurred in
buildings in which the construction and/or quality of mortar was poor. Another
example of this type of construction is the Lo Valds German Mountain Shelter,
located to the northeast of the earthquake epicenter, which was well built with a
good quality mortar and did not suffer structural damages.
(iii) Adobe houses are not common in this area; existing adobe structures suffered
heavy damage. According to Flores et al. [1960], the damages correspond to par-
tial wall collapse and vertical cracks in walls at intersections with out-of-plumb.
(iv) Braced wooden frame structures performed relatively well. In these structures,
void spaces between timbers are filled with different materials and covered with
mud or mortar stucco. The damage corresponds to the collapse of wooden panels
(Fig. 6) and the fill or plaster. Constructions with a concrete fill showed good
performance, suffering only cracking at the contact between the concrete blocks
and the timber members of the panels.
FIGURE 4 Stone masonry house at El Ingenio [DIC, 1958].
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Las Melosas Earthquake: Shallow Seismicity Hazard in Chile 439
(v) Confined masonry houses performed quite well. In this type of construction the
masonry walls are confined either totally or partially by vertical- and horizon-
tal-reinforced concrete elements (pilares and cadenas), which restrict the
out-of-plane displacements of the masonry walls. The behavior of these struc-
tures was quite good, even in the epicentral zone, especially when the verti-
cally reinforced concrete elements (pilares) confined the masonry wall
completely (Fig. 7). The masonry walls are built with quarried stones cemented
with mortar.
(vi) Other types of constructions in the area include quincha houses, built with
branches and covered with mud plaster (Fig. 8), as well as wooden constructions.
The latter showed a good resistance to damage.
2.2. Seismic Intensities
Intensity values are determined based on the distribution of damage to different types of
structures, which are classified according to their vulnerability (Table 2). An adaptation of
the MSK-64 intensity scale [Karnik et al., 1984], considering the characteristics of
FIGURE 5 Damage in quarry stone masonry buildings at Las Melosas [DIC, 1958]. Left:
Vertical cracks in walls at intersections; right: Collapsed wall.
FIGURE 6 Railway station at El Volcn [DIC, 1958].
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Chilean buildings [Monge and Astroza, 1989] is used. This scale is based on the damage
distribution for each vulnerability class as shown in Table 3. Damage grades for different
types of buildings are defined in Tables 4 and 5 (both based on Monge and Astroza, 1989).
The intensities are equivalent to those of the Modified Mercalli Intensity scale, MMI
[Levret and Mohammadiorun, 1984; Barrientos, 1980]. The adapted MSK-64 scale has
been used in several works related with the evaluation of the Chilean earthquake effects
and in the seismic zonation of Chilean cities [Astroza and Monge, 1991].
FIGURE 7 Confined masonry buildings at El Volcn [DIC, 1958].
FIGURE 8 Quincha house near El Volcn [DIC,1958].
TABLE 2 Definition of vulnerability classes
Vulnerability Class Type of Structure
A Stone masonry and adobe houses
B Stone masonry with cement mortar. Unreinforced masonry
houses. Braced wooden frame infill with adobe.
C Reinforced and confined masonry houses.
D Confined masonry houses built according to NCh2123
Chilean code.
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Las Melosas Earthquake: Shallow Seismicity Hazard in Chile 441
According to the observed damage in unreinforced and confined quarry stone
masonry buildings and buildings with braced wooden frame infill with adobe, and
applying the Monge and Astroza [1989] methodology, we estimate MSK values as
follows:
TABLE 3 Intensity degree based on damage distribution according to MSK [Monge and
Astroza, 1989]
Intensity
Degree
Class A Class B Class C Class D
% Damage % Damage % Damage % Damage
5 5 1 100 0 100 0 100 0
95 0
6 5 2 5 1 100 0 100 0
50 1 95 0
45 0
7 5 4 50 2 50 1 100 0
50 3 35 1 50 0
35 2 15 0
10 1
8 5 5 5 4 5 3 5 2
50 4 50 3 50 2 50 1
35 3 35 2 35 1 45 0
10 2 10 1 10 0
9 50 5 5 5 5 4 5 3
35 4 50 4 50 3 50 2
15 3 35 3 35 2 35 1
10 2 10 1 10 0
10 75 5 50 5 5 5 5 4
25 4 35 4 50 4 50 3
15 3 35 3 35 2
10 2 10 1
11 100 5 75 5 50 5 5 5
25 4 50 4 50 4
35 3
12 100 5 100 5 100 5
TABLE 4 Description of damage in stone, adobe, or masonry buildings [after Monge and
Astroza, 1989]
Damage Grade Description
0 No damage
1 Fine cracks in stucco
2 Fine cracks in walls. Horizontal cracks in chimneys, tanks, pediment,
cornice. Vertical cracks at intersection of walls.
3 Large and deep cracks in walls. Inclination or falling of chimneys, ped-
iment, cornice. Vertical cracks in walls at intersections and some
lean out-of-plumb. Diagonal cracks on walls are larger than 3 mm.
4 Partial collapse or total failure of a wall.
5 Total collapse.
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1. El Volcn: 9. This value was obtained considering the performance of stone
masonry without reinforcements and infill-braced wooden frame constructions
vulnerability class B. They suffered very heavy damage [Piderit, 1961]. In
addition, confined masonry structures suffered slight damage. In agreement with
the damage observed during the Tarapac earthquake of June 2005 [Astroza et al.,
2005a] and the central Chile earthquake of Llolleo 1985, the damage at El Volcn
railway station (Fig. 6) corresponds to an intensity degree greater than 8.
2. Las Melosas: 8 to 9. This value is a conservative estimate considering that the
earthquake of the 28
th
of August of 1958 produced heavy damage that forced the
evacuation of the place [El Mercurio, 1958b]. The constructions with greatest
damage were stone masonry houses without reinforcements.
3. Los Queltehues: 8. Reports and photographs indicate the damage in the village
church and houses inhabited by families of the hydroelectric plant employees. The
damage of the confined masonry houses built a few years before the earthquake is
slight; suggesting that the intensity here was smaller than in El Volcn and Las
Melosas.
4. San Alfonso area. According to Piderit [1961], structural damage extended to San
Alfonso, with 20% of the constructions showing heavy damage. Considering the
type of buildings in the zone, this percentage represents an intensity degree equal
to 7. Piderit [1961] reported that in El Romeral, San Gabriel, and El Ingenio 50%
of the houses suffered heavy damage, which represents an intensity degree
between 7 and 8.
5. Lo Valds. In this area upstream of El Volcn little damage was reported, which
corresponds to an intensity degree of 7, considering that the constructions are sin-
gle and two-storey unreinforced stone masonry buildings. In agreement with the
damage observed in the Tarapac earthquake of June 2005, the behavior observed
in Lo Valds corresponds to an intensity degree of 7 [Astroza et al., 2005a].
6. Considering that the damage studies of Chilean earthquakes [Daz, 2001; Astroza
et al., 2005a] indicate that rock falls take place when the intensity is equal to or
greater than 6.0 and that rock falls were observed down to the sector of Maitenes
hydroelectric plant, the limit of the damage zone (I 6) is inferred to have been in
the vicinity of the Colorado River. Intensities at Puente Alto, La Obra and Las
Melosas, which are outside of the damage zone, are estimated to have been less
than 6. In Santiago the intensity was 5 [Kausel, E., pers. comm., 2006].
Our intensity assignments are summarized in Table 6. All the places are located along
El Volcan and Maipo river valleys, because they were the only inhabited areas. Figure 9
shows the isoseismal curves obtained from these intensities, in terms of MSK intensity
scale. Given the linearity of the geographical distribution of the investigated localities and
TABLE 5 Description of damage for buildings with braced wooden frame
infill with adobe [after Monge and Astroza, 1989]
Damage Grade Description
0 No damage
1 Fine- vertical and diagonal cracks in plaster
2 Fall-down of plaster
3 Fall-down of the fill
4 Partial or total fall-down of a braced wooden frame
5 Total collapse
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the absence of further data, the isoseismal curves are assumed to be concentric. This is an
oversimplification, particularly for places located on hard rock, as the intensities were
measured along the valleys, where some amplification is expected, especially in the far-
field. However, given the geological characteristics of the soil deposits in the zone
[Chiu, 1991], this amplification is not expected to be very significant. Therefore, the
extension of the isoseismals to rock locations in Fig. 9 can be taken only as a first and
conservative approximation.
3. Earthquake-triggered Landslides and Peak Ground
Acceleration Estimates
3.1. Landslides Triggered by the 1958 Earthquakes
As mentioned previously, the 1958 earthquakes triggered an important number of land-
slides, particularly rock falls, which produced considerable damage to engineering
structures. Besides rock falls, some slumps were also triggered by the earthquakes. The
largest two of these landslides, which are well preserved until now, were investigated
from an engineering geological perspective to estimate the levels of strong shaking
required to produce them. So far, there are no instrumental records of strong ground
motion (accelerograms) in the epicentral areas of shallow crustal earthquakes in Chile.
For this reason an indirect approach, studying earthquake-triggered landslides and
TABLE 6 Intensities of the earthquakes
Place Latitude Longitude Elevation (m s.n.m.) I
Puente Alto 33 36 70 34 650 56
Las Vizcachas 33 36 70 31 780 56
La Obra 33 35 70 27 720 56
El Canelo 33 34 70 26 1300 6
El Manzano 33 35 70 24 1300 6
Guayacn 33 35 70 23 963 67
San Jos de Maipo 33 38 70 22 962 67
El Melocotn 33 42 70 20 1016 7
San Alfonso 33 43 70 17 2500 7
El Ingenio 33 46 70 15 2200 78
San Gabriel 33 47 70 15 1900 78
Los Queltehues 33 47 7013 1365 8
Las Melosas 33 51 70 13 2800 89
El Volcn 33 49 70 10 1416 9
Lo Valds 33 51 70 03 2500 7
Santiago 33 27 70 38 600 5
Valparaso
(1)
33 02 71 38 150 3
San Felipe
(1)
32 45 70 43 630 3
La Calera
(1)
32 45 7112 450 3
Sewell
(1)
34 05 70 23 2600 4
Rancagua
(1)
34 10 70 45 500 3
Curic
(1)
34 59 71 14 200 3
Curepto
(1)
35 05 72 01 9 3
Talca
(1)
35 25 71 35 90 3
Cauquenes
(1)
35 58 72 19 161 2
(1)
El Mercurio newspaper, 1958a.
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using world records of shallow earthquakes for their analyses, is used to estimate
ranges of ground accelerations in the epicentral area. This is an engineering approach
that will provide an idea of the expected levels of ground motion in the areas of greater
damage until instrumental data can be taken in future events. The investigated land-
slides, which may be classified as soil slumps [Keefer, 1984], are Las Cortaderas land-
slide, located in the Yeso Valley, and El Manzanito landslide, located in the Maipo
Valley, about 9 km north and 6 km south of the main shock epicenter, respectively
(Figs. 2 and 9).
3.1.1. Las Cortaderas Landslide. During the 4
th
of September 1958 Las Melosas earth-
quake, a landslide of ca. 1520 10
6
m
3
was triggered within the mass of an ancient
mega-landslide located on the eastern flank of the Yeso Valley [Flores et al., 1960; Chiu,
1991]. The 1958 landslide blocked the Yeso River, forming a small lake that lasted for a
few years, until the natural dam was broken by the river [Borde, 1966]. The extent and
morphology of the 1958 landslide can be recognized by an analysis of recent aerial
photographs and comparison with photographs taken before the earthquake [Casas et al.,
2005]. The 1958 scarp has a concave shape, and is about 800 m long and 100 m high,
while the deposits formed an irregular, hummocky morphology (Fig. 10). The surface
area covered by the landslide exceeds 4 10
5
m
2
. Since the 1958 slump was triggered in
an old landslide mass, the geology of both the old and new landslides is the same, com-
posed of volcanic rock blocks up to several meters in diameter within a soil mass of silty
and clayey sand, according to granulometric analyses [Casas, 2006]. Some rock blocks
form morphological irregularities along the 1958 scarp. Hence, the landslide is not purely
rotational and the shear surface is not entirely composed of soil. However, the landslide
geomorphology and the volumetric preponderance of soil materials allow it to be
modelled as a soil slump for stability analyses.
FIGURE 9 Intensity map for the 1958 Las Melosas main shock. The isoseismal are
assumed as concentric as a first approximation. As the intensities were estimated along the
valleys, on rock formations the isoseismals are in dotted line showing that they are a
conservative estimate. Geological symbology is explained in Fig. 2.
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3.1.2. El Manzanito Landslide. A second, smaller landslide of ca. 4 10
6
m
3
was induced
on the eastern flank of the Maipo Valley south of the town of Las Melosas (Fig. 2).
According to Rosenberg [1958] and Piderit [1961], most of the damage in this area includ-
ing the landslide was produced by the 28
th
of August 1958 earthquake, as it was
recognized during a field assessment carried out previous to the 4
th
of September main
shock [Rosenberg, 1958]. The landslide is a typical slump with a concave scarp, and the
presence of back-scarps in the landslide deposit, which covers an area of about 2 10
5
m
2
.
It was triggered in the tip of an alluvial fan, and delimited by two gullies that acted as
landslide flanks (Fig. 10). The material is sandy with around 10% of silt and clay [Casas,
2006]. The deposits did not reach the river, but partially covered a local fluvial terrace.
The landslide destroyed the Maipo hydroelectric channel that carried water to the Quelte-
hues power station, and displaced electricity posts [Flores et al., 1960], remains of which
can still be seen at the site.
3.2. Peak Ground Acceleration Estimates
3.2.1. Landslide Models. From the information collected during geological and geomor-
phological surveys, representative cross-sections of the Las Cortaderas and El Manzanito
landslides were prepared for the performance of 2-D stability analyses. The topography
prior to the landslides was estimated from the surrounding topography, aerial photographs
taken before the earthquake, and balanced reconstruction from the present day topography.
The shape of the shear surface was estimated from topographic maps, compass measure-
ments of the landslide scarps, survey of aerial photographs, field observations of the
landslide deposits, and a DGPS survey in El Manzanito landslide. The water table was
assessed from field observations and comparison of meteorological data from 1958 with
present day conditions. Different possible alternatives of the shear surface and water table
level were tested by Casas [2006]. In this article the models which returned the most
realistic results are presented. The maximum estimated depths of the rupture surfaces are
about 50 m for Las Cortaderas and 20 m for El Manzanito. Geotechnical parameters of the
shear surfaces were estimated from in-situ density tests and direct shear laboratory tests of
soil samples collected from the landslide scarps (Table 7). Both soils present a relatively
high friction angle. For nonsaturated samples, the soil retrieved from El Manzanito devel-
oped a cohesion of 30 KPa, whereas for Las Cortaderas the value was close to 4 KPa. For
saturated conditions, the cohesion in both cases drops to around zero. The 1958
FIGURE 10 Left: Las Cortaderas landslide, view from the NW. Right: Front view of El
Manzanito landslide.
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earthquake occurred at the end of a rainy winter [Casas, 2006], in areas which are partially
covered by snow during the winter. Therefore, it was assumed for the analyses that the soil
was nearly saturated at the time of the earthquake.
3.2.2. Stability Back Analyses. The stability of the slopes modeled for both landslides
was investigated. As a first step, pseudostatic analyses using commercial software were
performed, using the Bishop method. The critical acceleration required to obtain a factor
of safety of 1.0 was computed, assuming three possible cases: with a vertical acceleration
(A
v
) equal to zero; with a horizontal acceleration (A
h
) equal to twice the vertical accelera-
tion; and with a vertical acceleration equal to the horizontal acceleration. The latter
condition was investigated due to reports of high vertical accelerations in the epicentral
area. The critical accelerations obtained for each case are shown in Table 8.
To estimate the accelerations during the earthquakes the method proposed by
Newmark [1965], based on an analogy of a rigid block sliding on an inclined plane, was
used. The analysis consists of the calculation of the cumulative permanent displacement of
the sliding mass (called Newmark displacement) through double integration of the parts of
the acceleration time history that exceed the horizontal critical acceleration. This value
can be compared with threshold displacements considered to cause catastrophic failure.
These threshold values for coherent soil slides are normally about 10 cm [Wilson and
Keefer, 1985]. This value is typically chosen to represent critical ground displacement that
causes damaging macroscopic movement [Jibson and Keefer, 1993]. However, the 10 cm
value applies better for minor ground adjustment of the landslide mass. For deep-seated
landslides with greater accommodation of displacement before catastrophic failure, the
threshold values can be significantly higher [Murphy and Mankelow, 2004]. The ground
adjustment of the studied landslides can be assumed as low, from field observations and
due to the partly translational nature of the Cortaderas landslide and the small size and
depth of the Manzanito landslide.
TABLE 7 Geotechnical parameters estimated for the shear surfaces of Las
Cortaderas and El Manzanito landslides, based on geotechnical tests, used for
slope stability analyses [after Casas, 2006]
Las Cortaderas El Manzanito
In-situ natural unit weight [kN/m
3
] 18.0 17.9
Cohesion, saturated conditions[kPa] 0.0 0.0
Friction angle [] 40 41
TABLE 8 Critical accelerations for landsliding obtained
from pseudostatic analyses for different ratios of A
h

versus A
v
Landslide A
h
vs. A
v
Critical A
h
[g]
Las Cortaderas A
v
= 0 0.29
Las Cortaderas A
h
= 2A
v
0.26
Las Cortaderas A
h
= A
v
0.23
El Manzanito A
v
= 0 0.34
El Manzanito A
h
= 2A
v
0.27
El Manzanito A
h
= A
v
0.22
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Neither for the 1958 earthquakes nor for other Chilean shallow earthquakes are there
acceleration instrumental records in the epicentral area. Therefore, the analyses were per-
formed for a series of world records of strike-slip focal mechanism, and focal distance and
magnitude similar to the 1958 earthquakes (Table 9). The records were then scaled until
the Newmark displacement exceeded the threshold value of 10 cm. The maximum accel-
erations of the scaled records return a range for the peak ground acceleration (PGA)
values that would resemble the PGA of the earthquakes at the landslide sites. The analyses
were performed with the critical accelerations obtained from the pseudostatic analyses for
all three cases of vertical to horizontal acceleration ratios considered. The analyses assume
that each landslide was triggered by a single earthquake, which is known for the Manza-
nito landslide. There is no way to know which of the three shocks of the 4
th
of September
earthquake triggered the Las Cortaderas landslide, or whether the displacement occurred
in a single shock or it was accumulated. In this case, the results would be conservative.
Because of these uncertainties, the results of the analyses return a range of accelerations
rather than a single value. The range of peak ground accelerations obtained with this
method is summarized in Table 10.
A second approach was the use of the Arias Intensity (I
A
) [Arias, 1970] of the same
records from the world database and its comparison with the Newmark displacement (D
N
)
TABLE 9 Ground motions used for acceleration estimates with Newmark analyses [from
database in Jibson and Jibson, 2003]
Earthquake Station Mw
PGA
[g]
Focal
Distance
[km]
Arias
Intensity
[m/s]
Mean
Period
[s]
Morgan Hill, 1984 AND-250 6.2 0.42 18.7 0.68 0.43
Morgan Hill, 1984 HVR-240 6.2 0.31 9.7 0.87 0.62
Imperial Valley 1979 BCR-140 6.5 0.59 12.0 3.90 0.49
Imperial Valley 1979 BCR-230 6.5 0.79 12.0 6.00 0.47
Imperial Valley 1979 SHP-270 6.5 0.51 17.8 2.74 0.34
Superstition Hills 1987 SM8045 6.5 0.73 18.4 3.81 0.33
Superstition Hills 1987 SM8135 6.5 0.90 18.4 6.76 0.40
Superstition Hills 1987 PTS-315 6.5 0.52 21.3 3.04 0.65
Kobe, Japan 1995 NIS-090 6.9 0.50 23.5 2.27 0.53
Kobe, Japan 1995 NIS-000 6.9 0.51 23.5 3.35 0.49
Duzce, Turkey 1999 DZC-270 7.1 0.54 13.8 2.93 0.82
Duzce, Turkey 1999 VO-000 7.1 0.97 25.2 9.98 0.30
TABLE 10 Results of Newmark analyses, showing the range of PGA values
obtained from application of Newarks method to the records presented in Table 9
Landslide A
h
vs. A
v
Critical A
h
[g]
PGA range from
Newmark analyses[g]
Las Cortaderas A
v
= 0 0.29 0.701.15
Las Cortaderas A
h
= 2A
v
0.26 0.661.10
Las Cortaderas A
h
= A
v
0.23 0.601.00
El Manzanito A
v
= 0 0.34 0.791.30
El Manzanito A
h
= 2A
v
0.27 0.671.12
El Manzanito A
h
= A
v
0.22 0.580.99
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given by the formula obtained by Jibson et al. [2000] based on a database of landslides,
most of them from California:
In this case, the formula allows computing the required Arias intensity (in m/s) so that
the value of D
N
(in cm) is equal to 10 cm, given a critical acceleration (in g) that is
obtained from the pseudostatic analysis of each landslide. The Arias intensity is obtained
from the integration of the full accelerogram, therefore it takes into account the frequency
content of the ground shaking. For each studied case, the record with Arias intensity most
similar to the required value was scaled until obtaining the threshold displacement, and the
PGA of the scaled record was then computed. The results are shown in Table 11.
The results of the peak ground acceleration estimates (Tables 10 and 11) show that,
depending on the assumption for the horizontal versus vertical acceleration ratio, the PGA
varies between about 0.6 and 1.2 g for Las Cortaderas landslides and from 0.6 to 1.3 g for
El Manzanito landslide using the Newmark method. With the application of the Jibson
et al. [2000] equation and calculation of the Arias intensity, the peak acceleration values
are around 0.91.0 g for both cases, showing much less dispersion due to the pre-selection
of one record using the Arias intensity criterion. These are rough estimates due to the
uncertainties and assumptions of the applied geotechnical models. The uncertainty of sta-
bility analysis of earthquake-triggered landslides is usually high due to a great number of
factors that are difficult to constrain [Murphy et al., 2002]. Therefore these results are just
an approximation. Despite this, the results are consistent with reports of very high acceler-
ations in the epicentral area. After the earthquakes the effects of large accelerations both
horizontal and vertical were observed: several railway wagons at the El Volcan railway
station jumped out of the tracks from their original position and an unanchored five HP
electric motor was overturned [Flores et al., 1960]. The results within the context of shal-
low earthquakes in Chile are discussed in the next section.
4. Discussion
4.1. Intensity and Acceleration Attenuation Relationships
4.1.1. Intensity attenuation. To evaluate the impact of shallow earthquakes on regional
seismic hazard, we compare the intensity attenuation inferred for this sequence with that
inferred for other shallow earthquakes in Chile, in Mendoza, Argentina, at the same lati-
tude of Santiago, and in California.
log D = 1.521 log I 1.993 log A 1.546
N A c
(3.1)
TABLE 11 Estimated peak accelerations and scaling factors to obtain the required Arias
Intensity (I
A
*) for a Newmark displacement of 10 cm according to Eq. (3.1)
Landslide Ac [g] I
A
* [m/s] Scaled Record Scaling Factor PGA [g]
Las Cortaderas 0.23 6.88 SM8135 1.01 0.91
Las Cortaderas 0.26 8.08 SM8135 1.09 0.98
Las Cortaderas 0.29 9.32 VO000 0.98 0.95
El Manzanito 0.22 6.49 SM8135 0.98 0.88
El Manzanito 0.27 8.49 VO000 0.92 0.89
El Manzanito 0.34 11.48 VO000 1.08 1.05
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Las Melosas Earthquake: Shallow Seismicity Hazard in Chile 449
Figure 11 shows that the estimated intensity of Las Melosas 1958 earthquakes is
strong in the epicentral area, but the intensity value is reduced quickly from 9 to 6 over a
distance of just 40 km. Furthermore, the Barrientos intensity attenuation relationship for
Chile [Barrientos, 1980] predicts intensity values greater than those estimated in this
study. Barrientos equation does not make a distinction of the type of seismic source,
which has been recognized to have a strong effect on the intensity distribution [Chavez
and Castro, 1988; Bakun et al., 2002; Astroza et al., 2005b]. Barrientos used available
data from 73 Chilean earthquakes with a magnitude equal or greater than 5.4 that occurred
from 19061977, a total of 945 intensity values.
In Fig. 12 the intensities of Las Melosas 1958, Chusmiza 2001 (Mw = 6.3), Mendoza
(Argentina) 1861 (M = 7.0) and Mendoza 1985 (Mw = 5.9) shallow earthquakes are com-
pared. The intensity attenuation pattern of the four events is similar, indicating severe dam-
age (I = 9) in the epicentral zone. These high intensity values can be associated with a high
number of fatalities, for example in the Mendoza 1861 earthquake, which killed approxi-
mately 1/3 of the 18,000 inhabitants in the epicentral region [Zamarbide and Castano, 1993].
In Fig. 13, we compare the estimated intensities of Las Melosas 1958 earthquakes
with an intensity attenuation relationship inferred for Californian earthquakes [Bakun and
Wentworth, 1997]. The Californian relationship overestimates the damage caused by Las
Melosas earthquakes, although both trends show a similar shape.
When the observed Las Melosas intensity values are compared with the expected
values obtained from the intensity attenuation relationship proposed for Californian and
Chile earthquakes, it must be considered that these relationships represent the best fit for
the central tendency of distance data corresponding to an intensity value. For Las Melosas
intensity data, this central value is always under both attenuation curves; in this way, if
any scatter of observed intensity value is taken into account the commentaries obtained
from Figs. 11 and 13 do not change.
4.1.2. Acceleration Attenuation. Figure 14 shows the results of the peak acceleration
estimates from the stability back-analyses of Las Cortaderas and El Manzanito
FIGURE 11 Comparison of Las Melosas earthquake intensity data with attenuation
relationship for Chile proposed by Barrientos [1980].
l = 1.3844 M 37355 log
10
(D
e
) 0.0006 D
e
+ 3.8461
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
Epicentral Distance [km]
I
n
t
e
n
s
i
t
y
Barrientos [1980] (M = 6.9)
El Mercurio [1958a]
This study
0 320 300 280 260 240 220 200 180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20
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landslides. These are compared with other recent shallow crustal earthquakes that
occurred in Chile (2001 Chusmiza earthquake and 2004 Curic earthquake) and Colombia
(1999 Quindio earthquake), and with attenuation relationships proposed for shallow
crustal earthquakes based on Californian strong motion data [Sadigh et al., 1997]. It can
be observed that all the Chilean as well as the Colombian records and the estimated PGA
for the 1958 Las Melosas seismic sequence, are consistently higher than the expected
accelerations using the Californian data, for both rock and deep soil sites (defined as soil
FIGURE 12 Comparison of strong shallow Chilean earthquake intensity data with data
of Mendoza 1861 and Mendoza 1985 earthquakes.
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
Epicentral Distance [km]
I
n
t
e
n
s
i
t
y
Las Melosas 1958 (M = 6.9)
Mendoza 1985 (Mw = 5.9)
Mendoza 1861 (M = 7.0)
Chusmiza 2001 (Mw = 6.3)
0 340 320 300 280 260 240 220 200 180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20
FIGURE 13 Comparison of Las Melosas earthquake intensity data with attenuation
relationship proposed by Bakun and Wentworth [1997].
Bakun et al. [1997] (M = 6.9)
El Mercurio [1958b]
This study
L
BAKUN
= 5.07 + 1.09 M 3.69 log
10
(D
e
)
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
Epicentral Distance [km]
I
n
t
e
n
s
i
t
y
0 320 300 280 260 240 220 200 180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20
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Las Melosas Earthquake: Shallow Seismicity Hazard in Chile 451
depths exceeding 20 m). The Chilean soils are generally stiffer than Californian soils, with
higher shear wave velocities; therefore accelerations somewhere between the rock and soil
curves should be expected, which is only observed for a couple of far-field records. The
chart confirms the observations by Ruiz and Saragoni [2004] and Campos et al. [2005]
that the peak accelerations from Chilean earthquakes are not well represented by attenua-
tion relationships based on data from elsewhere, the Chilean accelerations being generally
higher. Campos et al. [2005] also concluded that the Chilean shallow earthquake high
frequency content is greater than those observed for the Kobe (1995) and Northridge
(1994) acceleration earthquake records.
The estimated PGAs from the landslide analyses contribute near-field values, not
available from instrumental data of Chilean shallow crustal earthquakes. They confirm the
tendency suggested by the instrumental records, although the values obtained from the
different slope stability methods described above are somewhat higher than the general
tendency. This small difference may be attributed to the inherent uncertainty of the
geotechnical methods applied for the acceleration estimates.
5. Conclusions
We conclude that strong, shallow Chilean earthquakes generate high seismic intensities that
would rise to about 9 (MSK Scale) in the epicentral zone when the earthquake magnitude is
FIGURE 14 Comparison of peak ground accelerations estimated from landslide analyses
with data of acceleration records of recent shallow earthquakes in Chile and Colombia,
and attenuation relationships proposed for rock and deep soil sites for strike-slip shallow
crustal earthquakes by Sadigh et al. [1997] based on Californian data. Dots show the aver-
age PGA obtained from the application of the Jibson et al. [2000] relationship of
Newmark Displacement and Arias intensity (Eq. 3.1), whereas the bars show the range of
peak accelerations obtained from direct Newmark analyses of shallow earthquakes world
data (Table 10). Rupture distance was approximated to hypocentral distance where the
rupture surface is not defined. Modified from Campos et al. [2005].
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about 7.0, without the presence of particularly unfavorable local conditions that would
produce greater damage due to site effects.
The estimation of peak accelerations based on back-analysis of two landslides is
shown to be an appropriate methodology, where different approaches allow a narrow
range of possible values of PGA to be constrained effectively. According to this study
and Campos et al. [2005], the maximum ground acceleration registered in the Chilean,
Argentine, and Colombian shallow earthquakes is greater than the value obtained with
the equation for the shallow earthquakes of California. For the Chilean earthquakes, this
does not mean greater damage because the high-frequency contents of the Chilean
earthquakes attenuate the effect of the high accelerations [Campos et al., 2005; Saragoni
et al., 2005]. This situation was verified with the buildings located in the damage zone of
Las Melosas 1958 earthquakes that partially fulfilled the requirements of the Chilean
seismic code.
Currently, the Chilean seismic building codes only consider the seismic hazard from
interplate thrust events with coastal epicenters. To quantify the seismic hazard of shallow
Chilean earthquakes, it would be necessary to map active geological faults and to install
instruments in the zones where these faults are located. With this information, the seismic
zones proposed in the seismic code could be revised. In addition, considering the expected
maximum intensities for large shallow earthquakes (M = 7.0), the Chilean seismic code
must forbid the construction of adobe and masonry buildings with little reinforcement. It
is also necessary to introduce a factor that considers the near source effect.
The results presented here will allow a better assessment of the seismic hazard from
crustal faults along the Chilean Andes, some of which are located very close to important
urban centres located in the Central Depression. One such fault is the San Ramon Fault
along the boundary of the Santiago basin, which might potentially trigger earthquakes of
magnitudes exceeding 6.0 [Rauld et al., 2006]. The intensity and peak acceleration values
and attenuation patterns obtained from this study may be used in microzonation and
hazard assessment studies around suspected active faults in the Chilean subduction
environment.
Acknowledgments
This study was funded by the Millenium Initiative P02033-F Nucleus of Seismotectonics
and Seismic Hazard. The authors acknowledge the AES Gener Hydroelectrical Company
for permitting access to its premises. Many thanks to Dr R. Thiele, C. Valderas, R. Rauld,
and A. Ormeo for their collaboration during the fieldwork, Dr. J.P. Le Roux for his revision
of the draft article, and three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments.
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