Dying in an earthquake may become more frequent in the 21st century, warn U.S. Geological Survey seismologists. The problem isn't more temblors, however. The danger comes from the fact that growing populations are crowding into cities with flimsy buildings that are are more likely to collapse during a quake.
A total of between 2.6 and 3.1 million people are estimated to die in quakes in the coming century, according to the study. The number of quakes with a death toll over 50,000 may climb to 25 from a total of seven in the 20th century. Those numbers assume the global population will climb to 10.1 billion by the year 2100.
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The seismologists recommended quake-proofing buildings to prevent this massive loss of life.
"Without a significant increase in seismic retrofitting and seismic-resistant construction in earthquake hazard zones at a global scale, the number of catastrophic earthquakes and earthquake fatalities will continue to increase and our predictions are likely to be fulfilled," said study author USGS engineering geologist Thomas L. Holzer in a press release.