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Damages caused by an Earthquake

Earthquake Damages:

Many seismologists have said that ”earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do”. This is because most deaths from earthquakes are caused by buildings or other human constructions falling down during an earthquake. Earthquakes located in isolated areas far from human population rarely cause any deaths. Thus, in earthquake-prone areas, strict buildings codes requiring the design and construction of buildings and other other constructors that will withstand a large earthquake will reduce the death toll.
Damage from earthquakes can be classified as follows:

  • Ground shaking: Shaking of the ground caused by the passage of seismic waves near the epicenter of the earthquake is responsible for the collapse of most structures. The intensity of the ground-shaking depends on distance from the epicenter and on the type of bedrock underlying the area. In general, loose unconsolidated sediment is subject to more intense shaking than solid bedrock. Damage to structures from shaking depends on the type of construction. Concrete and masonry structures, because they are brittle and are more susceptible to damage that wood and steal structures, which are more flexible.
  • Ground Rupture: Ground rupture only occurs along the fault zones that move during the earthquake. Thus structures that are built across the fault zones may collapse, whereas structures built adjacent to, but not crossing the fault, may survive.
  • Fire: Fire is a secondary effect of earthquakes. Because power lines may be knocked down and because natural gas lines may be ruptured due to an earthquake, fires are often started closely following an earthquake. The problem is compounded if water lines are also broken during the earthquake since there will not be an supply of water to extinguish the fires once they have started. In the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, more than 90 % of the damage to buildings was caused by fire.
  • Rapid mass-wasting processes: In mountainous regions subjected to earthquakes, ground shaking may trigger rapid mass wasting events like rock and debris fall, rock and debris slide, slumps, and debris avalaches.
    Landslides and Avalanches: earthquakes can causes land slides and avalanches, which may cause damage in hilly and mountainous areas.
  • Tsunamis: Tsunamis are giant ocean waves that can rapidly travel across oceans. Earthquakes that occur along coastal can generate tsunamis, which can cause damage thousands of kilometers away on the other side of ocean. For example, 2004 Indian ocean earthquake.
  • Impacts on humans: Earthquakes may result in disease, lack of basic necessities, loss of lives, generally property damage, road and bridge damage, collapse of buildings are destabilization of the foundations of buildings, which may lead to collapse in future earthquakes. This can cause total devastation for those affected as the country may not have the funds for the regeneration of lives and possessions. An earthquake can ruin someone’s life forever, only 3% of buildings in Kobe, for instance, have earthquake insurance; therefore enabling them to get back onto their feet again.
  • Liquefaction: It is process that occurs in water saturated unconsolidated sediment due to shaking. In areas underlain by such material, the ground shaking causes the grains to loose grain-to-grain contact and thus the material tends flow. You can demonstrate this process to yourself if you go to the beach. Stand on the sand just after an incoming wave has passed. The sand will easily support your weight and you will not sink very deeply into the sand if you stand still. But, if you start to shake your body while standing on this wet sand, you will notice that the sand begins to flow as a result of liquefaction, and your feet will sink deeper into the sand.

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