People who live anywhere along the Earth’s tectonic plate boundaries (the so-called “ring of fire” know that at any time “the big one” – a really, really large, damaging earthquake – could happen. The largest earthquake in recorded history was a 9.5 event along the coast of Chile in 1960. The second largest was a 9.2 along the southern coast of Alaska in 1964. Since January, 1700, only six events have occurred that were 9.0 or larger – one of them as recently as 2004 in Sumatra, Indonesia.
Saturday, February 28, 2010: Still reeling from the devastating
effects of the magnitude 7.0 Haiti earthquake of January 12, 2010, the
world today is witnessing immense destruction and life loss in the
aftermath of a magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile – an event hundreds of
times larger than Haiti, which could turn out to be one of the most
powerful earthquakes in history. In just a few tens of seconds, the Nazca
tectonic plate “slid” beneath South American plate. Populations at risk
Sixteen years ago this week, the world’s eyes
were on the Los Angeles, California region. The devastating January
17,1994 Northridge magnitude 6.7 earthquake had just killed 57 people,
injured 10,000 others, put seven freeways out of commission, and
damaged or destroyed hundreds of buildings, including a large
wood-frame apartment building that collapsed and killed 16 occupants.
News and images of the January 12th Haiti earthquake and its
aftershocks are unspeakably horrendous. As we join millions of others
around the world in support of coordinated relief efforts, we also want
to help spread the word on how to help.
Click on the following links to make donations online, or to learn more about how to participate in other ways.
I plugged in my old address in Altadena, California to this site’s damage estimator,
and placed a magnitude 7.5 earthquake (a plausible event) on the San
Andreas fault. I placed the epicenter near Palmdale, California. The
result I got was unsettling, and frankly made me glad I now live in an
area where I only have to worry about ice storms, blizzards, tornadoes
and mosquitoes. Here’s what I got:
You’re walking across a street when you notice a car speeding toward you. Will it hit you?
Think. Where are you in relation to the
speeding car? Does the driver see you? Will you make it across the
street to safety by continuing at your walking pace? Or, should you
break into a run?
You realize the driver doesn’t seem to notice you, and the car isn’t slowing down. You also realize that, unless you run you’ll be run over. You immediately break into a run, and reach the sidewalk just as the car speeds by you.
A basic homeowner’s insurance policy in the U.S. does not cover
earthquake related loss or damage. Although 90% of the country's
population lives in seismically active areas, only a fraction are
covered by earthquake insurance. Even in California, the majority of
the state’s homeowners opt out. A common perception is that earthquake
insurance costs too much and offers little coverage. But the problem of
earthquake risk is national: 38 other states face substantial
earthquake hazards, including 46 million people in metropolitan areas
Thousands of people in the Vanch region of Tajikistan are homeless
in the wake of Saturday’s magnitude 5.3 earthquake. The quake caused
massive damage, even though its size is considered “moderate.” Major
damage and/or outright collapse of roughly 1,050 mudbrick homes in the
wake of the quake have left 20,000 people without shelter. Two schools
and a clinic were also destroyed, and electricity supplies and
communications were cut off by the quake. The quake came as the Central
Asian nation is approaching its coldest time of the year, with
temperatures going down to -20 degrees Celsius.