2003 Deadliest Year For Earthquakes Since 1990
The year 2003 closed as the deadliest year for earthquakes since 1990, 25 times more fatal than 2002, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which monitors earthquakes worldwide.
A total of 43,819 deaths have been reported for the past year, as confirmed by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In 2002, 1711 people died in quakes around the world; in 1990, 51,916 people were killed in various seismic events.
The “strong” magnitude 6.6 that hit Bam, Iran on December26 was responsible for at least 41,000 deaths, and the death toll there is still expected to rise.
The magnitude 8.3 earthquake that rattled the Hokkaido, Japan region on September 25 was recorded as the largest temblor in the world for 2003, and the only “great” quake.
California experienced the deadliest U.S. quake, a magnitude 6.5, on December 22 in San Simeon, 40 miles northwest of San Luis Obispo, Calif. Two people were killed when a building collapsed in nearby Paso Robles. Shallow but powerful, the earthquake uplifted the Santa Lucia mountains and triggered a vigorous aftershock sequence.
Four other events in Alaska, magnitudes 6.6 to 7.8 were stronger than the San Simeon temblor.
The USGS locates about 50 earthquakes each day or almost 25,000 a year. On average, there are 18 major earthquakes (magnitude 7.0 to 7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or higher) each year worldwide. Several million earthquakes occur in the world each year, but many go undetected because they occur in remote areas or have very small magnitudes.
In the United States, earthquakes pose significant risk to 75 million Americans in 39 states, the USGS says.
The USGS and partners are working to provide emergency response personnel with real-time information, within five to 10 minutes of an event, on the intensity and distribution of ground shaking that can be used to guide emergency response efforts.
This effort, known as the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) has resulted in the installation of some 400 new earthquake monitoring instruments in vulnerable urban areas including San Francisco, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Anchorage, Reno, Las Vegas, and Memphis.
Full implementation of ANSS will result in 7,000 new instruments on the ground and in structures. Information on the shaking of buildings during quakes will equip engineers with the data they need to improve building designs in the future.
“Federal science plays an essential role in reducing our vulnerability to earthquakes. The ability to coordinate and respond to threats is a defining characteristic of good government,” said USGS Director Chip Groat. “Mother Nature lacks the malice of terrorists, but compensates with endless energy and dogged persistence. We must be prepared.”
Provided by theEnvironmental News Service.