Saturday, May 23, 2015

Damage Earthquakes Cause

Q: What kind of damage can a(n) earthquake do?
- Carrera K

A: Earthquake damage can be very wide-ranging. In increasing order of destructiveness (roughly following magnitudes from M ~4 to M ~ 8) :

1. Small cracks form in drywall, stucco, and concrete walls of buildings.

2. Fragments of building fall into the surrounding streets - glass, or bricks from the corners of windows, etc.

3. Topographic settling, leading to serious internal structural damage in buildings, making them uninhabitable (San Francisco, Loma Prieta earthquake, 1979).

4. Large fractures form in soils and rocks. Water towers fail. Electric power is cut and gas lines rupture (White Wolf Fault, Bakersfield, CA, 1952).

5. Major fires start that are difficult or impossible to control (San Francisco, 1906 AD).

6. Collapse of concrete floors in buildings, crushing most of what lies within (Izmir, Turkey, 1999 and 2013).

7. Major infrastructure collapse, leading to water-borne diseases, and starvation happens on a wide scale (Haiti, 2010).

8. Tsunamis wreak broad damage to coastlines, killing most people within reach of the water (Aceh, Indonesia, 2004).

9. Allocthons and major landslides cover or sweep inhabited regions. Segments of coastline drop below sea level (Puget Sound, 1700 AD), and rivers temporarily reverse direction (Mississippi River, 1811).

10. Entire civilizations collapse and do not recover (the Minoan civilization, 1,500 BC, though how much was explosive volcanism and how much was caused by earthquake damage is unclear). 

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