The Potential Risk of Earthquakes

Although they are indeed a destructive force of nature and cause a lot of damage and cost people their lives each year, earthquakes themselves actually pose very little danger to people. Thankfully, people cannot be shaken so much that they die during an earthquake so that is not the major risk there. Some movies make it seem like an earthquake will open up a massive hole to a fiery pit that people can fall into, but this is far from the truth. There are four main ways that injury and damage occurs during an earthquake.

The first big hazard and the most widely recognized damage caused by these tremors is the effect of ground shaking. Buildings will be shaken loose from their foundations, supports can fail, and entire buildings can collapse in on themselves. Buildings can be levels by the rolling ground waves that ripple out from the epicenter of the earthquake. Any buildings hit by these waves can fall over or collapse in on themselves. The ground shaking is also known to cause landslides, mudslides, and avalanches that can bury buildings. All of this damage can cause massive property damage and loss of life.

The next danger to worry about during an earthquake is ground displacement, a fancy term for when the ground shifts and moves along the fault line. The ground on either side of the fault line can move, either side to side or up and down during the shaking of the earthquake. If a road, building, or other structure spans across a fault, they can be severely damaged when the ground shifts. You can see this effect when one side of a building is suddenly feet away from the other side of the building after the earthquake.

The third main hazard that people have to look out for is flooding. An earthquake may break through dams and levees and allow water to rush in and flood the streets and buildings. The water can knock over buildings, wash away property, and drown people caught in the sudden rise of water. Smaller scale flooding can damage buildings and property when water lines are ruptured and allowed to flow up into the streets.

The final earthquake hazard that has to be watched for is fire. The most common causes of fires associated with earthquakes are broken gas lines, downed power lines, and when coal or wood burning stoves are knocked over. Fires can be devastating, especially if the area is hard hit and the water lines are also broken and there is not enough water that can be accessed to combat the fires. If a fire breaks out after an earthquake it is often the cause of the most severe damage.

There are many risks that come from an earthquake stroke. However, many of them are not caused by the earthquake itself but rather the way it impacts all of our man made devices and structures. The biggest risk from earthquakes often comes from our own creations.