What was the impact of earthquakes historically?

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Offline hmrags

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What was the impact of earthquakes historically?
« on: 16/07/2008 09:43:22 »
Hallie asked the Naked Scientists:

I've been thinking about earthquakes after hearing a report this week about ways to work on predicting them, and what I'm wondering is what people did in the past for earthquakes?

I know that earthquakes are dangerous, having lived in both California and Japan, but isn't most of the problem the fact that we have these huge infrastructures in place... buildings, bridges, roads, etc.  

My question, I guess, is how did people cope with earthquakes before we had skyscrapers and the Golden Gate Bridge? Were earthquakes in the past (pre-industrialization) considered to be the huge problem they are now? So, if you are planning any shows on earthquakes any time, I'd be curious about the historical perspective.

Keep up the good work!  

I usually listen at night, playing Sudoku on my iPod, and my husband just rolls his eyes and says "Naked Scientists?"  So I do wish you could put the podcast out on Mondays because Monday nights he usually wouldn't mind the competition!  ;)

What do you think?

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Offline LeeE

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What was the impact of earthquakes historically?
« Reply #1 on: 16/07/2008 17:52:23 »
In addition to the direct damage to buildings and other man-made structures, earthquakes can also cause landslides and Tsunamis, and these will have probably been responsible for many deaths in the past, at least to anyone living next to a mountain or on the coast.  Tsunamis, especially are no less dangerous now than they have been in the past.
...And its claws are as big as cups, and for some reason it's got a tremendous fear of stamps! And Mrs Doyle was telling me it's got magnets on its tail, so if you're made out of metal it can attach itself to you! And instead of a mouth it's got four arses!

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Offline hmrags

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What was the impact of earthquakes historically?
« Reply #2 on: 19/07/2008 01:17:51 »
I know that earthquakes on the coast can create tsunamis, and the landslides, but what about interior faults?  I'm thinking of the New Madrid fault (mid-U.S.A., so far from any coast), which in the 19th century caused a huge earthquake that supposedly rang bells in cities on the east coast of the U.S.  The earthquake waves were so large, that some eyewitnesses reported seeing the surface of the earth moving up and down.  Yes, I'm sure this damaged buildings, etc., but did it cause a huge loss of life?  The Alaska earthquake of the 1960's caused a large tsunami, but the tsunami didn't strike the area closest to the epicenter.  The thing about tsunamis is that they can strike very far from an actual quake, so I'm still wondering about how people built/planned for the actual quakes that they knew about... probably need to look at some Japanese history to find out more.

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Offline LeeE

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What was the impact of earthquakes historically?
« Reply #3 on: 21/07/2008 18:00:19 »
I would guess that in places where earthquakes were infrequent or frequent but mild, the people wouldn't have planned for them at all.  Japanese history is probably a good bet for a society familiar with large and frequent quakes and who may have planned for them.
...And its claws are as big as cups, and for some reason it's got a tremendous fear of stamps! And Mrs Doyle was telling me it's got magnets on its tail, so if you're made out of metal it can attach itself to you! And instead of a mouth it's got four arses!

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blakestyger

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What was the impact of earthquakes historically?
« Reply #4 on: 21/07/2008 22:27:39 »
I think that when the Jordan rift valley was formed it caused the disappearance of Sodom and Gomorrah.

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blakestyger

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What was the impact of earthquakes historically?
« Reply #5 on: 22/07/2008 12:34:24 »
Also, if you look at pictures of the Colosseum in Rome - not the ones of the well preserved bits but the less frequent ones where there isn't so much masonry - you can detect a 'step' in the structure due to earthquake damage.