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Panama Has Earthquakes next to Costa Rica


The common wisdom in Panama is that Panama does not have earthquakes but Costa Rica does. It turns out that the parts of Panama next to Costa Rica get an occasional tremor too. According to press reports there was a tremor of 6.2 on the Richter scale located 30 miles beneath the surface of the earth and 35 West of David, the capital of Chiriqui Provence and the third largest city in Panama.

There are not reports of injuries nor property damage although according to press reports the tremor was felt in San Jose, Costa Rica over 300 miles away. Earthquakes happen from time to time along the “Panama Fracture Zone.” This is a fault line in the extreme Northwestern corner of Panama. La Prensa, Panama reported a 5.5 Richter scale earthquake with some structural damage to homes in Northwest Panama in June of 2008.

Where the earthquakes do not occur in Panama is along the Panama Canal was one of the reasons for building the Panama Canal in the current location. The other was, of course, that the Panama Canal was built at the narrowest point of the Americas. Because of trade brought by the Panama Canal the majority of Panama’s population resides in and around the Panama Canal near Colon and Panama City where they do not get earthquakes. Panama real estate investment is happening in Panama City, Colon, and along the commercial areas of the Panama Canal. Other areas of real estate investment include Pacific and Caribbean coastal areas but do not include many multistory buildings.

The United States Geologic Survey web site for recent earthquakes lists the quake as 6.1 on the Richter Scale and on the Costa Rica, Panama border. The same site notes that its placement of the earthquake  epicenter can be off by six miles of depth or as much as four miles lateral distance. Nevertheless the earthquake  was, as they usually are, in the mountainous region of Panama near the Western border with Costa Rica.

Earthquakes and Panama Real Estate Investment

Panama’s two largest cities and the vast majority of Panama’s coastline on the Pacific and Caribbean are not in areas prone to earthquakes. Panama City was founded in 1519 and has not been rebuilt due to earthquake s unlike many other great Latin American cities. No one is going to invest in fifty story skyscrapers like those going up along the bay of Panama over a fault zone. The bedrock in Panama City is basalt. That is from the volcanic activity and uplift 14 million years ago that formed the Isthmus of Panama. Basalt is the same kind of rock that underlies Manhattan. You can see it exposed in Central Park.

Housing build in Chiriqui, including Boquete and Volcan is not multistory. The high rises are where there is no history (in almost 500 years) of any earthquake s.

If you are interested in investment in Panama real estate and are concerned about safety issues such as earthquake s come to see us at ABPanama. We do business throughout the country and have over 23 years experience managing real estate portfolios.

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