Seismotectonics of the 6 February 2012 Mw 6.7 Negros Earthquake, central Philippines

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Abstract

At 03:49 UTC on the 6th of February 2012, Negros Island in the Visayan region of central Philippines was struck by a magnitude Mw 6.7 earthquake causing deaths of over 50 people and tremendous infrastructure damage leaving hundreds of families homeless. The epicenter was located in the vicinity of the eastern coastal towns of La Libertad and Tayasan of the Province of Negros Oriental. Earthquake-induced surface deformation was mostly in the form of landslides, liquefaction, ground settlement, subsidence and lateral spread. There were no clear indications of a fault surface rupture. The earthquake was triggered by a fault that has not been previously recognized. Earthquake data, including epicentral and hypocentral distributions of main shock and aftershocks, and focal mechanism solutions of the main shock and major aftershocks, indicate a northeast striking, northwest dipping nodal plane with a reverse fault mechanism. Offshore seismic profiles in the Tañon Strait between the islands of Negros and Cebu show a northwest dipping reverse fault consistent in location, geometry and mechanism with the nodal plane calculated from earthquake data. The earthquake generator is here proposed to be named the Negros Oriental Thrust (NOT). Geologic transects established from structural traverses across the earthquake region reveal an east-verging fold-thrust system. In the latitude of Guihulngan, this fold-thrust system is represented by the Razor Back Anticline – Negros Oriental Thrust pair, and by the Pamplona Anticline – Yupisan Thrust pair in the latitude of Dumaguete to the south. Together, these active fold-thrust systems are causing active deformation of the western section of the Visayan Sea Basin under a compressional tectonic regime. This finding contradicts previous tectonic models that interpret the Tañon Strait as a graben, bounded on both sides by normal faults supposedly operating under an extensional regime. The Negros Earthquake and the active fold-thrust systems that were discovered in the course of the structural analysis provide strong arguments for basin inversion processes now affecting the Visayan Sea Basin, albeit under very slow strain rates derived from previous GPS campaigns. The occurrence of the earthquake in an area where no active faults have been previously recognized and characterized by slow present-day strain rates underscores the necessity of paying more attention to and exerting more effort in the evaluation of earthquake hazards of regions that are seemingly seismically quiet, especially when they underlie highly urbanized areas.

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Aurelio, M. A., Dianala, J. D. B., Taguibao, K. J. L., Pastoriza, L. R., Reyes, K., Sarande, R., & Lucero, A. (2017). Seismotectonics of the 6 February 2012 Mw 6.7 Negros Earthquake, central Philippines. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, 142, 93–108. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jseaes.2016.12.018

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