Discuss the view that the impact of earthquake hazards depends primarily on human factors
?Discuss the view that the impact of earthquake hazards depends primarily on human factors (40) Plan: Intro –What is a hazard? – Human and Physical Factors – How to manage with events Main – Natural Hazards – Human Factors – Management – Case Studies –California 1994 –Gujarat 2001 –Indian Ocean Tsunami 2004 Earthquake Hazards occur when there are adverse effects on human activities. This can include surface faulting, ground shaking and liquefaction.
In this essay I will be discussing the factors that affect earthquakes, whether human such as population density, urbanisation and earthquake mitigation or physical such as liquefaction, magnitude, landslides and proximity to the focus. Economic Development is one of the greatest human factors that affect the impacts. For example, in the Northridge Earthquake, California in 1994 only 57 people died after the 6. 7 magnitude quake occurred. Compare this to an LEDC such as India, and the Gujarat Earthquake in 2001, we can see how much of a difference being developed makes.
The 7. 9 magnitude quake on the 26th January 2001, Gujarat claimed 20,000 people and injured a further 160,000, but in California, only 57 people died and there were only 1500 injuries.
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This is due to the development of the country which encompasses factors such as money to prepare for the quake and also money for aid after the quake too. As the USA’s GDP per capita stands at 49,965 USD and India’s is only 1,489 USD we can see that this would affect the money spent on quake proofing buildings, education for evacuation and money for aid too.
But in India there is less economic development and as a result there were far more fatalities and impacts such as in the town of Bhuj, over 90% of all buildings were damaged. One physical factor of an earthquake is the possibility of lowland coastal areas being open to tsunami threats. The Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004, claimed 300,000 people due to the earthquake of magnitude 9. 0 triggering a slip in the plates. The focus, off the northwest tip of Sumatra, allowed the waves triggered by the quake to resonate around the Indian Ocean, destroying coastal areas of India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and even the shorelines of eastern Kenya.
Millions were made homeless by the huge waves that swept houses and cars away. It was estimated that the costs to repair all damage would be at approximately $5 billion. Another human factor is the earthquake mitigation through education and community awareness. Schemes such as the one in Sichuan, China helped to save thousands of lives. The weekly intervals of training in case of an earthquake, educated children and adults of what to do when the quake struck.
Evacuation schemes such as the window slides or hiding under tables was reported to have saved thousands when the magnitude 8. 0 hit the area in 2008. However, some were not saved due to their unwillingness to move and evacuate the area. Some people of the village, notably the poorer and elderly refused to leave as they didn’t want to leave all they owned behind. The proximity of settlements to an area of seismic activity and the growth of urbanisation are two more human factors that affect the impacts greatly.
These factors can cause many fatalities, but the impacts can be decreased by using land use regulations. These include land use zoning and exclusion zones, where there are laws as to the type and size of buildings able to be built in that area. This prevents many fatalities unlike in the Gujarat Earthquake, where it was estimated that 800,000 buildings were seriously damaged. A final human factor is that of using strict building codes so that the numbers of fatalities are kept to a minimum. This was particularly evident in Kobe Earthquake of 1995. When the 6.
9 magnitude struck, the main urban area of the CBD where all of the sky scrapers were situated remained standing. This was due to the building codes like the spring built foundations used in the towers. The scheme was a great success as it prevented the loss of thousands of lives. Another example was in the Northridge quake of 1994, California, where a good proportion of the 57 that died were due to collapse of buildings. Although America does now implement strict building codes, at the time, the buildings were old and so when they were built there were no codes.
Finally, the physical factor of land relief plays a major part in impacting on people when a quake strikes. For example in the Haitian earthquake of 2010, although there were over 220,000 deaths, not many of these were caused by secondary effects such as landslides. Because Haiti is a low lying country, there weren’t any opportunities to suffer more fatalities through landslides, however, in the lesser known quake in Iwate-Miyagi-Nariku, Japan there were many landslides, the largest of which was caused by the 7. 2 magnitude earthquake which occurred on 14 June 2008.
In conclusion, I think that it is difficult to argue convincingly that the impact of human hazards depends primarily on human factors because in every case there are always numerous factors that contribute to the extent of the earthquake. The easy route would be to argue that less developed countries are impacted more seriously by earthquakes due to human factors such as poorly built infrastructure and high population densities however; this is not necessarily the case in California where some of the impacts were primarily dependent on the human factors such as poorly constructed buildings in the area.
But, all impacts of any case study cannot be proven to be as a result of human factors, thus it is impossible to argue that the impacts of earthquakes hazards depend primarily on human factors. The important word is “primarily”, and although it is clear that the impacts are affected by human factors, they are not solely responsible for causing all of the impacts of any earthquake.