Research on the February 18, 1996 earthquake in the caves of Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet area, (eastern Pyrenees, France)


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Geodinamica Acta

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Eight caves have been investigated near Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet after the earthquake of 5.2 magnitude of February 1996 which occurred in the eastern Pyrenees (France) and caused moderate damage at the ground surface. The earthquake has been associated with the movement of an E-W fault. The caves had not been visited since the earthquake. Some damage, mainly collapses of soda straws and small rocks, could be attributed to this earthquake. The most interesting cave in the epicentral area is the Paradet cave which is situated on a recently activated fault plane. In this cave, soda straw falls could be attributed to the earthquake, but other more ancient damage was also observed. Analysis of the azimuth of fallen speleothems, which are natural pendulums, may indicate the directions, and an estimation of their mechanical properties gives the threshold of the seismic ground motion amplitude responsible for their collapse, thus supplying information to calibrate damage due to past earthquakes. A statistical study indicates that the main direction of the collapsed soda straws is E-W. Numerical simulations confirm that soda straws are relatively strong objects that may break under certain conditions during earthquakes.

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