Earthquakes: Why do some places suffer more than others?
Whilst earthquakes are perhaps the most frequently occurring natural hazard, their impact on people, property and communities varies enormously from one place to another. It is possible to identify a number of factors that cause some places to suffer more than others. Whilst some are large scale and are to do with tectonic location, others are decided at a much more local scale, and relate to building design and levels of preparedness.
Perhaps the most significant factor determining why some places suffer more than others is the tectonic location of an area. The distribution of earthquakes is commonly linked to the margins of global plates. Whilst the assertion that earthquakes only occur at plate margins is broadly true, it would be overly simplistic to assume that earthquakes are more common, and more devastating at some margins than at others. Yet it remains apparent that most earthquakes do coincide with the major plate margins, although a smaller number do occur away from plate boundaries. Generally speaking, earthquakes at destructive plate margins have a greater spread, and therefore affect more places than those at constructive plate margins, however this is a generalization, and earthquakes are subject to individual variation. Regardless of this, cities located along plate margins are typically of higher risk, than those situated within plate interiors.
Another significant factor determining why some places suffer more than others is the magnitude and depth of the earthquake. It is quite logical to correlate that the stronger a quake, the more serious its impact will be. Indeed in the majority of cases, there seems to be a direct relationship between magnitude and impact. However, magnitude alone cannot be held responsible for the scale of an earthquake disaster. In addition, the depth of focus is pivotal in determining the level of suffering. Generally, shallow earthquakes tend to result in...
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