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

    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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora