An earthquake is the perceptible shaking of the surface of the Earth, resulting from the sudden release of energy in the Earth’s crust that creates seismic waves. It is among the most deadly natural hazards and frequently leads to surface faulting, tremors, liquefaction, landslides, aftershocks and/or tsunamis. If we look at the pattern of where earthquakes occur around the world, it is clear that most of the earthquake activity is concentrated in a number of distinct earthquake belts. Earthquakes aren’t predictable in terms of when they strike, but some areas are more likely to be hit. A map of the world’s earthquakes shows that most of them lie in narrow zones, often around the edges of the continents, or in the middle of the oceans. The world is divided into seismic zones based on the tectonic plates and the magnitude of earthquakes. Here’s a list of 10 most earthquakes vulnerable countries in the world:
Few Countries are as vulnerable to earthquake damage as Indonesia. The capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, sits in a precarious position. It is not only situated atop the Pacific Ring of Fire, but also, a little less than half of the city is below sea level, putting it on soft soil that has the potential to liquefy if an earthquake of sufficient magnitude were to strike. But the complications do not end there. Its elevation also places Jakarta at risk for severe flooding. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake occurred on 26 December with the epicenter off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The undersea mega-thrust earthquake was caused when the Indian Plate was subducted by the Burma Plate and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000 people in 14 countries, and submerging coastal communities with waves up to 30 meters (100 ft) high. Indonesia was the worst affected area, with most death toll estimates at around 170,000. It is the third-largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph.
Turkey falls within the seismic zone between Arabian, Eurasian and African plates. It’s very geographic location implies that an earthquake can hit the country at any point of time. Turkey has had a long history of large earthquakes that often occur in progressive adjacent earthquakes. The magnitude 7.6 earthquake that struck western Turkey on August 17, 1999 occurred on one of the world’s longest and best studied strike-slip (horizontal motion) faults: the east-west trending North Anatolian fault. The event lasted for just 37 seconds, and killed around 17,000 people. Over 50,000 people were injured and over 5,00,000 people were rendered homeless, making it one of the most devastating earthquakes of the 20th century.
Mexico is another earthquake prone country, which has faced several earthquakes of high magnitudes in the past. Situated atop three of the large tectonic plates, namely, Cocos plate, Pacific plate and the North American plate, that constitute the earth’s surface, Mexico is one of the most seismologically active regions on earth. The motion of these plates causes earthquakes and volcanic activity. Mexico has a long history of destructive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In September 1985, an earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale and centered in the subduction zone off Acapulco killed more than 4,000 people in Mexico City, more than 300 kilometers away. The more recent 2014 Guerrero earthquake occurred with a moment magnitude of 7.2 that hit the state of Guerrero leading to many casualties in the area.
7. El Salvador
El Salvador is another earthquake prone country, and has suffered immense damage due to quakes in the region. The small Central American republic of El Salvador has experienced, on average, one destructive earthquake per decade during the last hundred years. Two major earthquakes occurred on 13 January and 13 February 2001, with magnitudes Mw 7.7 and Mw 6.6 respectively. The two events, which were of different tectonic origin, follow the patterns of the seismicity of the region although neither event has a known precedent in the earthquake cataloge in terms of size and location. The earthquakes caused damage to thousands of traditionally built houses and triggered hundreds of landslides, which were the main causes of fatalities. The earthquakes have clearly demonstrated trends of increasing seismic risk in El Salvador due to rapid population expansion in areas of high shaking and landslide hazard, aggravated by deforestation and uncontrolled urbanization. The institutional mechanisms required for the control of land use and building practice are very weak and present a major obstacle to risk mitigation.
Another earthquake prone country is Pakistan, which is geologically located in the Indus-Tsangpo Suture Zone, which is roughly 200 km north of the Himalaya Front and is defined by an exposed ophiolite chain along its southern margin. This region has the highest rates of seismicity and largest earthquakes in the Himalaya region, caused mainly by movement on thrust faults. The magnitude 7.6 quake that struck the Kashmir region of Pakistan in October 2005 killed more than 73,000 people, many in remote parts of the country, not dense urban centers like Islamabad. More recently, in September 2013, a powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.7 Richter scale had killed at least 825 people while injuring hundreds of others, causing immense damage to life and property.
Philippines lies on the edge of the Pacific plate, which is traditionally a seismic hot zone that encircles the state. The danger posed by earthquakes to Manila is threefold. It is, of course, snug with the Pacific Ring of Fire, making it especially susceptible not only to quakes, but also to volcanic eruptions. The threat to Manila is worsened due to its soft soil, which presents the risk of ground liquefaction. On October 15, 2013, an earthquake of magnitude 7.1 Richter scale had struck central Philippines. According to official reports by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), 222 were reported dead, 8 were missing, and 976 people were injured. In all, more than 73,000 structures were damaged, of which more than 14,500 were totally destroyed. It was the deadliest earthquake in the Philippines in 23 years. The energy released by the quake was equivalent to 32 Hiroshima bombs.
Ecuador has several active volcanoes making the country an extremely dangerous site for high- magnitude quakes and tremors. The country lies within the seismic zone between the South American plate and the Nazca plate. Earthquakes that affect Ecuador can be divided into those that result from movement on the subduction interface along the plate boundary, those that result from deformation within the South American and Nazca Plates and those that are associated with active volcanoes. On August 12, 2014, an Earthquake of 5.1 magnitude on the Richter scale had rattled Quito, which was followed by an aftershock of 4.3 magnitude. 2 people were reported dead and 8 were injured.
India has also experienced a series of some deadly earthquakes due to the movement of the Indian tectonic plate at the rate of 47 mm every year. Due to the movement of tectonic plates, India is prone to Earthquakes. India has been divided into five zones on the basis of peak ground accelerations. On December 26, 2004, in the third deadliest earthquake in the history of the world, the tsunami generated killed 15,000 people in India. The 2001 Gujarat earthquake occurred on 26 January, India’s 52nd Republic Day. It lasted for lasted for over 2 minutes and reached 7.7 on the moment magnitude scale killing between 13,805 and 20,023 people, injuring another 167,000 and destroying nearly 400,000 homes.
If estimates are to be believed, a citizen in Nepal is more likely to be killed by an earthquake as compared to any civilian in the world. Nepal is a disaster prone country. Floods, landslides, epidemics and fires cause considerable loss of life and property in Nepal every year. It is one of the most seismically active regions in the world and one has to look at the Himalayas to understand that. The mountains are being built as a consequence of the Indian tectonic plate driving under Central Asia. These two great slabs of the Earth’s crust are converging at a relative rate of about 4-5cm (two inches) a year. The upward climb of Everest and its sister mountains is accompanied by numerous tremors. Moreover, the remnants of a prehistoric lake, a 300 meter-deep layer of black clay, lies underneath the Kathmandu Valley. This augments the damage caused by severe earthquakes. Therefore, the region is susceptible to soil liquefaction. During strong quakes the solid ground turns into something like quicksand, swallowing everything above the ground. The April 2015 Nepal earthquake killed over 8,000 people and injured more than 21,000. The earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing 21, making April 25, 2015 the deadliest day on the mountain in history.
Japan tops the list of the earthquake prone areas. Japan’s physical geography and its location along the Pacific Ring of Fire makes the nation highly susceptible to earthquakes and tsunamis. The Ring of Fire is a tectonic plate in the Pacific Basin that is responsible for 90% of the world’s earthquakes and 81% of the world’s strongest quakes. On top of its prolific tectonic activity, Japan is also home to 452 volcanoes, making it the most disruptive geographic location in terms of natural catastrophes. The mega-thrust earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, was the strongest to hit Japan and one of the top five largest earthquakes in the world since seismological record-keeping began. It was followed by a tsunami with waves of up to 10 m (33 ft). The disaster left thousands dead and inflicted extensive material damage to buildings and infrastructure that led to significant accidents at four major nuclear power stations.
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