Are All Earthquakes Killer One?

Are All Earthquakes Killer One

‘Earthquake’ the very term creates paranoia. But are all earthquakes as destructive as they are made out to be? Gharpedia presents some useful information to remove the fear associated with this geological phenomenon.

“We learn geology the morning after the earthquake.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Earthquakes are devastating. Every alternate day one comes across news channels flashing news of an earthquake of some magnitude occurring somewhere on the earth. Those who are exposed to the debris of buildings with piled-up dead bodies – even in photos – are terror struck and end up losing their sleep and peace of mind.

People who Have Lost Peace of Mind Due to Earthquake

A good question to ask here is that – Are all earthquakes serious? Are All Earthquakes Killer One? Should one suffer from this terrible fear psychosis? Will you and your beloved ones die and be actually buried beneath the debris of your dream house itself? Well not necessarily.

A friendly word of caution, avoid being addicted and worse blindly believing all that the ill-informed news channel readers speak or newspapers report else your life will become miserable! Because, if you do so, you will not be able to live peacefully in the present out of sheer terror of – ‘what if this calamity befalls me tomorrow.’ Of course, earthquakes are grave and many a times killers too, but not all earthquakes are as fatal as they are made out to be by the media. So, ensure that you do not live with that fear psychosis.  Let us understand WHY OF IT.

Now let us take a closer look at earthquakes and the probability of them turning out to be deadly.

What is an Earthquake?

Richter Scale A Measure of Magnitude of Earthquake

Primarily one needs to understand exactly what an earthquake is and how it is measured or rather how is its severity expressed. The release of energy beneath the crust of the earth is measured on the “Richter’s Scale” which measures the earthquake’s magnitude “from 2.00 to 8.00 or higher”. The point to be noted here is that only those earthquakes whose magnitude is above ‘7.00’ are deadliest earthquake in the real sense of the term. Of course, those earthquakes which are above 6.0 or 6.5 are serious, but they do not fall under the ‘killer’ category.

Basically, there are two terms to understand earthquake. One is the magnitude, and another is intensity. We have given an in-depth explanation of both the term in the below article, check it out.

 Difference between Magnitude and Intensity of Earthquake

How Often Do Earthquakes Occur?

Now let us explore and try to gain an understanding of the probability of facing such killer earthquakes. For this, one needs to do a recce of the frequency of earthquakes, which keep on occurring across the earth. The table below outlines the occurrence of earthquakes of different magnitudes. (Source: National Earthquake Centre, US Geological Survey – Based on Observations since 1900)

Frequency of Earthquake Globally: How Often Do Earthquake Occur?

Table Showing Frequency of Earthquake Globally: How Often Do Earthquake Occur

The above table clearly explains that earthquakes of magnitude 2 to 2.9 occur every 2 minutes on earth i.e. 720 such earthquakes occur on the earth every day. Most of them get unnoticed or remain unreported or are of academic importance only. But it is the news readers who frighten you. And ironically earthquakes of such magnitude are not felt even by these news readers! They get recorded only on seismographs.

Similarly, around 130 earthquakes of magnitude 3 to 3.9 occur daily, which have the capacity of swinging a ceiling light and nothing more. Even the frequency of those earthquakes which can cause cracks in walls without collapsing and are of magnitude 4 to 4.9 is 18 times a day. Those earthquakes which can move furniture with their magnitude of 5 to 5.9 occur almost 2.66 times a day. What this basically means is that such minor earthquakes keep on occurring and are to be treated as a natural occurrence on earth. Even those earthquakes of 6 to 6.9 magnitudes which bring down poorly constructed buildings occur 10 times in a month across the whole earth.

Probability of Facing Killer Earthquakes: Will Earthquake Kill You?

Fault Plane of Earthquake

Now when you talk of earth, it covers all the seas, mountain ranges, forests and thickly or sparsely populated areas, too. There are several fault planes below the earth which cause earthquakes and the chances of you getting hit by earthquakes are therefore very rare.  Thus, even if you live in an earthquake prone zone, your chances of facing such earthquakes are not high.

The frequency of the devastating and deadliest earthquake of magnitude 7.00 and above is twice per month; while those measuring 8 or higher on the Richter Scale and inviting the wrath of destruction occur once in a year or once in 2 years.

Now go ahead and divide this probability across the nations and areas of the earth you’ll realize yourself that –

  • The probability of facing earthquake for a majority people is practically nil!
  • Those living in “Zone IV” may have to face such a killer earthquake once in their life time. Here also, if one’s house is compliant with earthquake resistant building norms it will at least facilitate one’s escape; and if appropriately designed and constructed, one’s house may suffer some light damages and distress, but it will not collapse. In fact, most of the buildings survive the earthquake, even the most severe one. Such provisions are always in-built in your design also as per government norms & codal provisions. So, worry not.
  •  And if one lives in zones which are not prone to earthquakes, one may not face them throughout one’s lifetime.

Deadliest Earthquakes

Deadliest Earthquake of Port-au-Prince – Hispaniola (Haiti) - 2010

Port-au-Prince – Hispaniola (Haiti) – 2010

Deadliest Earthquake of Chengdu - Sichuan (China) - 2008

Chengdu  – Sichuan (China) – 2008

Deadliest Earthquake of Bhuj-Gujarat (India) - 2001

Bhuj-Gujarat  (India) – 2001

Deadliest Earthquake of Los Ríos – Valdivia (Chile) - 1960

Los Ríos – Valdivia (Chile) – 1960

Deadliest Earthquake of Prince William Sound - Alaska (United States) - 1964

Prince William Sound –  Alaska (United States) – 1964

Deadliest Earthquake of Indian Ocean – Sumatra (Indonesia) - 2004

Indian Ocean – Sumatra (Indonesia) – 2004

Deadliest Earthquake of Bahía de Caráquez - Ecuador (Colombia) - 1998

Bahía de Caráquez –  Ecuador (Colombia) – 1998

Deadliest Earthquake of Tōhoku region (Japan) - 2011

Tōhoku region (Japan) – 2015

Deadliest Earthquake of Gorkha region (Nepal) - 2015

Gorkha region (Nepal) – 2015

Deadliest Earthquake of Yibin - Sichuan (China) - 2008

Yibin – Sichuan (China) – 2008

Summing up, although there are some earthquakes which lead to loss of assets and fatalities too; yet not all earthquakes are deadliest earthquakes. So simply getting paranoid – by viewing hyperbole, ill-informed news alerts, reading ill-informed newspapers who only sell the fear and reading social media updates posted by narcissists whose lives revolve around the likes they generate – is absolutely not done! Remember, most of the news flashes reported almost daily are mostly of magnitude 2 to 5 or at the most 6.

Be vigilant; prior to purchasing/building your dream house ensure that it adheres to earthquake resiliency norms; focus on your work; live peacefully; conduct earthquake drills once in a while with your team and family; enjoy life and leave the rest to God.

Must Read:

Staying Safe after an Earthquake!
How to Protect Yourself During an Earthquake?

Image Courtesy: Image 1Image 2, Image 6, Image 7, Image 8, Image 9, Image 10, Image 11, Image 12, Image 13, Image 14, Image 15

Author Bio

Huta Raval – An English Literature and Journalism Topper, Huta Raval has graduated from the L D Arts College, Ahmedabad. Post serving for 23 years in the NBFC and Public Library Sectors her desire for ‘writing the unwritten’ brought her to the creative field of content writing. Her clientele comprises of NGOs, Blogging Platforms, Newspapers, Academic Institutions, et al.

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