In 1906, the residents of San Francisco, California, had an abrupt change of lifestyle. They learned that almost anything can happen without warning. An earthquake killed about 3,000 people and caused over $400 million in property damages. In 1920, the Gansu earthquake in China took about 200,000 lives. Then in 1948, the region around Ashgabat in the Soviet Union suffered a powerful quake that claimed over two-thirds of that city’s population (110,000 people died).
The most powerful earthquake ever recorded happened in 1960 in Chile. Registering 9.5 on the Moment magnitude scale, it created a tsunami that swept the entire Pacific Ocean. In 1972, 90% of the city of Managua, Nicaragua, was destroyed by a midnight earthquake that killed over 10,000 people. Then in 1985, the Great Mexican Earthquake struck, killing as many as 30,000 people, most of whom were never found. In 1989, San Francisco and surrounding areas experienced the “World Series Quake.”
In 2003, the Bam Citadel, the largest adobe structure in the world and built before 500 B.C. was almost completely destroyed, together with 70% of the city of Bam and 70,000 residents.
Most of them happen along what is known as the circum-Pacific seismic belt or the “Pacific Ring of Fire” bounding the Pacific tectonic plate. With high-population cities like Mexico City, Tehran, and Tokyo growing in areas of high risk, it is possible that a future earthquake could take as many as 3 million lives.
It’s hard to understand why people insist on living in earthquake-prone areas like San Francisco and the mountains of central and South America. But in fact, earthquakes are a common phenomenon, small ones happening somewhere in the world every day. Characterized by shaking and ruptures in the land, earthquakes also cause dangerous avalanches and landslides, fires like the terrible 1906 San Francisco experience, soil liquefaction where buildings literally sink into the earth, and massive tsunamis. Because the damage they do is enduring, they also leave high risks for disease in their wake as people try to find potable water to drink and dry, safe places to sleep and live.
People who live in high-probability earthquake zones must live each day as it comes, knowing that their fragile lives could be over in an instant. Knowing that tragedy can strike at any time, they prepare for it.
Technology specialist Jason lives near the Marina, the most high-risk area in his city. He accepts graciously the fact that living there is a risk, but he always stores basic supplies for that inevitable crisis. He keeps several gallons of fresh water, portable food packs, extra flashlights and batteries, and several thing-a-magics that would overwhelm the technologically-challenged.
Earthquake Safety Tips
* Duck. Stay off heavy objects that may fall. Find an open area or stand in a doorway.
* If you can’t get out of the building, seek protection under a heavy table.
* If you’re driving when the earthquake strikes, stay inside your car.
* If you’re in a mall or store, move away from shelving and other movable objects.
* In theaters and stadiums, duck under your seat and wait until the mob has largely left the area. Don’t get caught up in the panic-filled crowds.
Another Word of Advice
Being well-prepared, having a plan of action, is the best way to prepare to survive an earthquake. Lacking this comfortable knowledge, you are more likely to panic and make deadly mistakes.
Know where strong, stable structures are that may provide shelter. Avoid areas of poor construction or materials. Stay calm. Stay alert. Things change very quickly, and you should be ready to respond.