Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Earthquake Cities

I wonder whether LA or Tokyo is going to be levelled by an earthquake first. Tokyo is overdue for an earthquake.

Tokyo remains a great concern because of its high population, history of earthquakes and impact on the world economy if a major quake devastates the capital of the world's number-2 economy. Experts say a major quake is long overdue for Tokyo, which was flattened in 1923 by a quake and subsequent fires.|Link|

So is Los Angeles.

An earthquake on the southern San Andreas of magnitude 7.5 or larger could kill thousands of people, experts have said. On average, quakes of that size have struck Wrightwood at roughly 100-year intervals, although lulls between temblors lasted as little as 10 years and as long as 224 years. The tension that has built up along the San Andreas Fault in the past 150 years has to release itself eventually, said Sally McGill, a geologist at Cal State San Bernardino who specializes in the study of active faults and prehistoric earthquakes. "It's like pulling a rubber band and it's about to break," McGill said by phone from her campus office. "I'll be surprised if it doesn't break in my lifetime.'|Link|

Edited by Safety Neal:
Ok, I'm exaggerating when I call these cities deathtraps. New building materials retard fire much better than materials in 1923 and the buildings are much more resistant to earthquakes due to engineering/construction and architecture techniques.

I grew up in the Kansas, aka Tornado alley. Still, I much prefer tornadoes to earthquakes. Tornadoes are localized and are fairly easy to deal with. But a major earthquake is a systemic event and virtually impossible to avoid. Luckily, earthquakes don't happen very often. Perhaps I'm being provincial by preferring the devil I know to the devil I don't know.

No place is perfectly safe. Perfect safety is a pipe dream, a chimera, a waste of time to pursue. But it's also foolish to build your house on a foundation of sand or to let major cities grow in an earthquake zone. The environment is a constant source of change and you just have to pay attention and keep your wits about you.

But why borrow trouble? If your last house was carried away by a landslide or a flood, consider a better location next time.

The Japanese, of course, live on unstable islands, so maybe they have to accept more compromises, but I still think LA is a bit silly. And since I dislike LA in general, it's harder for me to see the trade-offs in its favor.

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