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discuss the view that the impacts of earthquakes primarily depend on human factors

By matthartas Feb 27, 2014 793 Words
Discuss the view that the impact of earthquake hazards depends primarily on human factors Earthquake hazards and their severity depend on both human impacts and physical impacts. Human impacts include the likes of population density and physical impacts include the likes the earthquake magnitude. In order to evaluate whether human impacts are greater than physical impacts I have used the case studies of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco, USA and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake in Pakistan. Impacts of earthquake hazards clearly depend on human factors, though not primarily. For example, if the population density of a given area is high, the impacts are likely to be more severe as more buildings will collapse; killing more people and the risks of fires and disease is much greater. Another example is the development of a country. In the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the impacts may have been more severe due to them being a LDC with little money. This in turn meant that they had poor preparation and emergency services, roads were easily destroyed, making it even harder for emergency services. This resulted in the deaths 73,276 people. This was made worse by the fact that small, mud villages were destroyed completely as they were obviously not very earthquake resistant. In comparison to this, the 1989 San Francisco earthquake had fewer impacts due to them being a MDC. This meant that they could afford to produce booklets on potential hazards, preparation assessments and a well-trained emergency service. They also had, though limited, amounts of earthquake-proof buildings which they could afford due to them being a MDC. This in turn meant that only 63 were killed compared to the 73,276, despite there being 17 years between the two earthquakes. However, the effects on buildings was much larger in the San Francisco earthquake as San Francisco is a large urbanised city compared to the Kashmir earthquake where it occurred near poor, small villages. This in turn meant that 12,000 homes were destroyed in San Francisco meaning that the damaged cost around $6-8 billion. As Kashmir is located where there are small amounts of mud villages, the building damages only came to around $2.2 billion. However, it is also physical impacts that can depend on the severity of earthquake hazards and I believe that these are primarily depended on over human factors. For example, in the San Francisco earthquake, the scientists had a strong idea of when the next major earthquakes would take place due to the history. A major earthquake happened there in both 1906 and 1966 and so could use the information and data to predict when the next earthquakes occurred and had a rough idea of the hazards they will present. Also, another example whereby earthquake hazards depend on physical impacts rather than human is the magnitude of the earthquake. For example, the San Francsico earthquake had a magnitude of 6.9 whereas the Kashmir one had one of 7.6, so the Kashmir earthquake was much stronger and so in reality the impacts on humans was always likely to be more severe. On top of this, the Kashmir’s epicentre was right next to Sacha, a small village, whereas the epicentre was 14 miles away from San Francisco, meaning that the Kashmir earthquake was going to be more devastating. Also, the Kashmir earthquake occurred at a depth of 10km which is very close to the surface and lasted for 30seconds, which is quite long for an earthquake whereas the San Francisco earthquake lasted half that time at 15 seconds. This meant that the Kashmir earthquake had more severe hazards and hence impacted on humans more. However, liquefaction did occur with the San Francisco earthquake. Liquefaction is when the ground becomes oversaturated with water and transforms from a solid to a liquid state. This meant that many buildings were destroyed as they cannot stand and collapse. In San Francisco, this caused the Namitz highway to be destroyed. Other physical impacts include landslides, which are determined on the geology of the location. An earthquake can cause soft mud to fall from hills and mountains, destroying housing and blocking roads. In conclusion, I believe that physical and human factors work hand in hand and the case study of the Kashmir earthquake proves this point. They had a large magnitude, the depth was small and the epicentre was very close. This alongside Pakistan being a LDC, having poor infrastructure and poor emergency services, meant that the hazards were much more severe. However, in a final judgement, I believe that physical impacts are more important in determining how severe earthquake hazards will be as these are pretty much unpredictable and solely depend on how severe the impacts on humans will be. You could have the best earthquake buildings in the world but a strong, shallow and close earthquake is still going to do severe damage.

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