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Posts Tagged ‘Earthquake-prone regions’

The World’s Most Earthquake-Vulnerable Cities

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 20, 2011

Tiffany M. Luck

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In Pictures: The 20 Most Earthquake-Vulnerable Cities
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Earthquake Reaction And Overreaction
The World’s Most Earthquake-Vulnerable Cities
China’s Mandate Of Heaven
A Tale of Two Disasters
Quake Could Rock China Life
Economic Impact Of China’s Great Quake

The earthquake in China’s Sichuan province killed perhaps 15,000 people and left thousands of people buried under heaps of rubble.

And while a massive quake like this one–magnitude 7.9–would undoubtedly do damage to any world city, the death toll and degree of destruction has more to do with investment in well-designed infrastructure capable of handling a massive earthquake than the quake itself. Unlike the Beijing Olympic venues, built to withstand a magnitude 8.0 earthquake, the majority of China’s infrastructure in the area proved ill-prepared for a shock like Monday’s–felt as far away as Hanoi, Vietnam, and Bangkok, Thailand.

Blame the mortality spread on exponential population growth, increasing poverty and lax or nonexistent building codes. In short: Poor nations–like China–run far greater risk of earthquake fatalities than rich ones.

In Pictures: The World’s Most Earthquake-Vulnerable Cities

GeoHazards International, a nonprofit research group aiming to reduce suffering due to natural disasters, measured the lethal potential of seismic disasters facing small and large cities in Asia and the Americas–areas most at risk for seismic calamity. The sample cities spanned both developed and developing countries. Variables measured: building frailty, potential for landslides and fires, and the rescue, firefighting and life-saving medical abilities of local authorities.

Kathmandu, Nepal, ranked first in the 2001 study, followed by Istanbul, Turkey; Delhi, India; Quito, Ecuador; Manila, Philippines; and Islambad/Rawalpindi, Pakistan–all of which could expect fatalities in the tens of thousands if disaster struck. The only first-world cities on the list were in Japan: Tokyo, Nagoya and Kobe. Fatalities in these cities were estimated in the hundreds, not thousands.

Events since then show the estimates to be fairly accurate, if not low. The magnitude 7.6 quake that struck the Kashmir region of Pakistan in October 2005 killed more than 73,000 people, many in remote parts of the country, not dense urban centers like Islamabad. Geohazard’s study predicted a 6.0 hit on Pakistan’s capitol would kill 12,500 people.

In a 2004 paper, Brian E. Tucker of GeoHazards warned the problem would become worse, citing a study of estimated earthquake fatalities based on population growth and construction changes in northern India. One scary finding: A magnitude 8.3 earthquake striking Shillong might kill 60 times as many people as were killed during a similar size quake that hit in 1897, even though the population of the region has increased by only a factor of about eight since then. Reason: The replacement of single-story bamboo homes with multistory, poorly constructed concrete-frame structures, often on steep slopes, has made the population much more vulnerable. Read the rest of this entry »

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