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The advent of better documentation and video cameras has changed that. For instance, just before the earthquake that struck L'Aquila, Italy, in 2009, bystanders reported flames flickering up from the pavement. Video and eyewitness reports also described several weird light anomalies during the magnitude-8.0 earthquake in Pisco, Peru, in 2007. In one case in the early '70s, luminous drifting globes thought to be possible UFOs when they were observed in Canada's Yukon Territory later were linked to earthquake lights.
That's because electrical current can flow from a stress buildup that could either be released in a catastrophic rupture, or gradually over several days, with no quakes.