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Discuss The View That The Impact Of Earthquakes Depends Primarily On Human Factors

1736 words - 7 pages

Discuss the view that the impact of earthquakes depends primarily on human factors: Earthquakes are caused by movement of tectonic plates that covering the earth’s surface. They occur at all plate boundaries; destructive, constructive and conservative, but the most intense tend to occur at subduction zones and conservative faults, such as the San Andres Fault in California. Every seismic event will be unique, and there are many factors influencing the extent to which it will have an impact on the environment and the populace. In many situations, both physical factors, related to the nature of the event and the topography of the area, and human factors, linked to demography and land use, have ...view middle of the document...

In LEDC’s, the prevalence of poorly built structures is often a key cause of death and injury – in the Haiti earthquake in 2012 220,000 people died, many as a result of structural failure. Similarly, in the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, over 70000 were killed from building collapse. Many cheaply built structures are constructed of whatever materials are to hand, and can be put up quickly – corrugated iron and concrete are main materials, and buildings often have no foundations. Furthermore, in Haiti, governmental responsibility meant that there was little in the way of building codes and a deficit of engineers and architects, which, combined with the extremely low wages most people lived off, meant that nearly 250000 buildings were damaged. However, it is not just the building collapse itself that causes so many deaths – incapacitation of rescue teams and emergency services limits the availability of help in an area that already has restricted resources, and many more died as a result of being trapped. Secondary impacts of earthquakes also add to the impacts in LEDC’s – as many are homeless, and sheer volumes of rubble makes rebuilding and hence recovery very slow, crime, disease and famine are quick to spread throughout refugee camps. A lack of education, sanitation and inefficiency of aid distribution further add to this, sometimes making poor management a larger killer than the earthquake itself. Human activity and land use can also intensify the impacts of an earthquake. Large-scale deforestation in Haiti (less than 2% of Haiti is now forested, as opposed to 60% in 1923) increased soil erosion, leading to slope instability, heightened during an earthquake. A large proportion of Haiti’s population live on or near the foot of these slopes, and during an earthquake are at a high risk of loss or damage to property from landslides. The role of land use in aggravating the impacts of seismic hazards can clearly be seen from the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. Tourist resorts dominated large stretches of coastline hit by the waves, and many were built on the site of natural mangrove forests. Mangroves can act as buffers to tsunamis, reducing the velocity and destructive power of the waves, yet by building hotels and smoothing out beaches, the tourist industry unknowingly made the effect of the wave much worse. Education and community preparedness can be an important factor in reducing death toll. Every year, Japan holds an earthquake day, on which both local communities and government practise what to do in the event of an earthquake. Education into knowing what to expect and how to make yourself safe, as well as being prepared by having emergency kits available will reduce the number of deaths. It also reduces people’s dependence on emergency services, meaning they are able to rescue more people from more dangerous situations. From these points, it is clear that human factors will have a large influence on the extent to which an earthquake will have an...

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