Seismically active areas of the world
While major earthquakes are normally associated with the Pacific rim, or parts of Asia and the middle-east, in truth many other regions of the world are at some risk of serious seismic activity.
Last December, in WHO e-Atlas Of Natural Disaster Risks To Europe, we looked at some of the seismic risks to Europe, and in April of 2011 (see UNDP: Supercities At Seismic Risk) we saw a report that stated that half of the world’s supercities (urban areas with 2 million – 15 million inhabitants) are at high risk for seismic activity.
According to the Centre Sismologique Euro- Méditerranéen (CSEM) there have been nearly 750 (mostly minor) Euro-Med earthquakes recorded over the past two weeks.
While large earthquakes are rare in central, western, or northern Europe, they are not unheard of.
In 1356, on the evening October 18th - the Feast day of Saint Luke the Evangelist – perhaps the strongest quake in central Europe’s history struck in the evening, destroying the Swiss town of Basel and leveling practically every major structure within 30 kilometers of the city.
The quake was preceded by a foreshock between 7 and 8 pm, with the main quake striking around 10pm. It was felt as far away as Zürich, Konstanz and even in Île-de-France.
While seismographs were not invented 650 years ago, estimates put this quake at between 6.2 and 6.5 on the modern Richter scale.
Le tremblement de terre qu a eu lieu en 1356. - Karl Jauslin (1842–1904)
In 1755, on November 1st (All Saint’s Day), what would prove to be one of the deadliest earthquakes to ever strike Europe literally destroyed Lisbon, Portugal along with dozens of fishing villages along the coast, and sent Tsunami waves crashing into the UK, Northern Africa, and the Caribbean.
The quake, which occurred a couple of hundred kilometers offshore, was estimated to have been 8.2 or greater on the Richter scale.
Tremendous tsunamis (20+ meters) were reported in Northern Africa, and smaller waves washed ashore in the Caribbean and the Atlantic Coast of the New World many hours later.
Lest anyone think this is simply `ancient history’ - never to be repeated - a somewhat smaller quake (7.8 magnitude) struck in roughly the same area in 1969.
While damage was moderate, and only a minor (1+ meter) tsunami was generated, 13 people were killed and many more injured.
The bottom line is that earthquakes (and tsunamis) can and do occur even in places that are not considered seismically active. And while rare, they can produce catastrophic results.
302 human impact disasters claimed 29,782 lives; affected 206 million and inflicted record economic damages of $366 billion in 2011
Geneva, 18 January 2012 – For two consecutive years the long-term disasters trend has been bucked by major earthquakes which claimed thousands of lives and affected millions in both 2010 and 2011, according to new statistics published today by CRED and the UN office for disaster risk reduction, UNISDR.
UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström, said today: “The Great East Japan Earthquake and the accompanying tsunami is a reminder to us all that we cannot afford to ignore the lessons of history no matter how forgotten. The many major cities located in seismic zones need to take seriously the probability of return events even if many years have passed since the last seismic event of major magnitude.
“In 2010 we saw this phenomenon as well when over 220,000 people died in Haiti which had not been hit by an earthquake of such strength for almost 200 years. Unless we prepare for the worst then many earthquake-prone urban areas around the world are destined to see even greater loss of life in the future as more and more people move to cities.”
Figures released today by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at a UNISDR-hosted press conference in Geneva showed that 20,943 people lost their lives in earthquakes last year out of a total of 29,782 people directly killed by 302 disasters. The earthquake fatalities included 19,846 who died in Japan while the remainder were largely accounted for by the October earthquake in Turkey.
The EM-DAT Project is supported by USAID.
- Date: 18 Jan 2012
- Sources: United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Secretariat (UNISDR)
While we can’t predict where the next earthquake will occur, or do anything to stop it, we can prepare to deal with one when it happens.
For good, solid information on how prepare for `the big one’ (even if you live someplace other than Los Angeles), I would recommend you download, read, and implement the advice provided by the The L. A. County Emergency Survival Guide.
While US-centric, FEMA has an earthquake hazard webpage with a lot of resources that would be of use to just about anyone, including the following preparedness information.
Below are links to earthquake-related information of use to individuals and families. There are many things that you can do to reduce the chances that you or members of your family will be injured, or that your property will be damaged, by earthquakes. Use the following resources to help make your family, your home, and your community more resistant to the potentially dangerous and damaging effects of earthquakes.
- What to Do During an Earthquake
Everyone living in or visiting seismically active regions needs to learn—and practice—how to protect themselves in an earthquake. This fundamental seismic safety information can save lives and reduce injuries.
- Earthquake Preparedness at Home
Learn about what to do at home before, during, and after earthquakes. Topics include how to strengthen your home, secure its contents, and prepare yourself and your family to react safely, take cover, survive on your own, stay in contact, and care for people, pets, and property.
- Earthquake Publications and Tools—Individuals and Families
Browse and access FEMA publications that provide in-depth guidance on protecting residential structures, their contents, and their occupants from earthquake hazards. All can be downloaded online, and most can be ordered in print or on compact disc.
- Earthquake Contacts
Find individuals and organizations that you can go to for more information about earthquake risk-reduction activities in your state, in your region, or at FEMA.
Emergencies happen every day. Disasters, admittedly, less often.
But in either event, preparedness is key.
At a bare minimum, every household should have a disaster plan, a good first aid kit (and the knowledge to use it), and emergency supplies to last a minimum of 72 hours during a disaster.
Personally, I’d be uncomfortable with anything less than a week.
To become better prepared as an individual, family, business owner, or community to deal with these types of disasters: visit the following preparedness sites.
AMERICAN RED CROSS http://www.redcross.org/