When a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy in August 2016, hundreds of people were killed and thousands were displaced. Much of the damage, and many of the deaths, were caused by the collapse of centuries-old buildings in small mountain villages.
Depending on geography and history, some countries are more vulnerable to earthquakes than others. Jules Suzdaltsev reports in today's Seeker Daily dispatch.
A major earthquake is generally defined as anything above 7.0 on the Richter scale. But as the Italy tragedy shows, even smaller quakes can have huge destructive effects if they occur in areas with older infrastructure or remote locations where emergency response is difficult.
Some countries have learned these lessons the hard way and now do everything they can to prepare for earthquakes. Take Chile, for instance. The country has endured 13 major earthquakes -- of magnitude 8.0 or above -- since 1906. Chile is situated alongside the Ring of Fire, an area of the Pacific Ocean where roughly 90 percent of the world's earthquakes occur.
RELATED: 'Weather Bombs' Could 'X-Ray' Earth to Detect Quakes
As such, Chile has developed rigorous emergency protocols for earthquakes. The country enforces strict building codes and has a comprehensive early warning system that includes sirens, broadcasts and mobile phones. Chile has a dedicated disaster relief agency that's admirably proactive. The country regularly practices emergency drills and evacuations.
It's paying off, too. Chile's most recent major earthquake, an 8.3 temblor in 2015, resulted in only 13 deaths -- compared to more than 1,600 after a similar quake in 1960.
Japan has taken similar measures to minimize earthquake damage. All new buildings are designed to withstand moderate quakes, and most older building are being retrofitted to do the same. Some Japanese homes even have special foundations that fill with compressed air when the earth shakes. The idea is to literally lift the building off the ground before an earthquake hits. Really.
-- Glenn McDonald
The Guardian: How did Chile manage to survive its recent earthquake virtually unscathed?
The New York Times: Japan's Strict Building Codes Saved Lives
UNESCO: Earthquake and Tsunami in Chile: massive evacuation and building codes help to reduce loss of life