News / USA

Report: US Not Earthquake-Ready

Workers attempt to repair power lines at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Tomioka, Japan, March 24, 2011
Workers attempt to repair power lines at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Tomioka, Japan, March 24, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
Mike O'Sullivan

The United States has not suffered a devastating earthquake for more than 100 years, and a new report says Americans wrongly believe they are earthquake-ready.  The report from the National Research Council, an advisory body to the U.S. government, says recent events have revealed vulnerabilities.

The study's authors say Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005, showed the United States is not resilient enough to bounce back quickly from a major natural disaster in an urban area.  

The study, which was compiled by a dozen seismic experts, says earthquakes in the United States have been moderate to strong in recent decades, or have occurred in sparsely populated areas.  The panel cited a recent earthquake exercise in Los Angeles, which showed that a magnitude 7.8 quake would result in staggering losses.

Most of the report was written prior to Japan's March 11 earthquake of magnitude nine, but panel chair Robert Hamilton says events there show how one problem can trigger another.

"In Japan, the earthquake triggered a tsunami and the tsunami knocked out the power, and the power being out made the nuclear reactor vulnerable," noted Hamilton.  "And so a lot of times, when people plan for these events, they do not anticipate a compound event made up of cascading problems that build up."

The report recommends an 18-point plan for implementing the U.S. Strategic Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, which was established by Congress in 1977.  The report calls for better public education, creating short-term forecasting and early warning systems, improving building design for earthquake resilience and devising better techniques to retrofit old  buildings.  It also calls for enhanced earthquake simulations and evaluation of critical infrastructure, including electricity, highways and water systems.

Chairman Hamilton says the nation also needs to expand its focus beyond earthquake-prone states like California.

"For example, in the central Mississippi Valley area, there were three magnitude-eight earthquakes in 1811 and 1812," added Hamilton.  "And there has not been a high level of activity ever since then.  So there is a real complacency about addressing the earthquake threat in that area, and there are just a lot of vulnerable buildings."

He says parts of the eastern United States are also vulnerable.  For example, Hamilton says in the United States, building codes and land-use plans are implemented and enforced at the local level, and local communities are reluctant to spend on a problem that occurs every one or two centuries.

"They have a lot of other things to worry about, and money is scarce and it is hard to convince people that they should put money into something that may not happen in their lifetime," Hamilton explained.  "But still, the vulnerability exists."

Seismic experts say history teaches us to expect the unexpected.

The committee's proposals span 20 years.  The report notes some measures are being implemented already, and it recommends the United States spend $300 million per year during the next five years to become more earthquake-resilient.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid