Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014



Over the weekend, all of us at the DUNER BLOG were rudely awakened at 3:07 in the morning by a fierce earthquake.  It was a 6.1 on the Richter Scale and was based near Napa. Fortunately, no one was killed. Unfortunately, it's estimated the loss of wine will exceed $1 billion. Anyhow, while San Francisco has had its share of earthquakes over the years, it still failed to make our list of the world cities most prone to earthquakes.

10. Antofagasta, Chile. Pop: 345,000. More earthquakes have struck this Northern Chilean city than any other populated place on earth. (The only reason it is so low on the list is its small population.) Massive quakes struck in 1868, 1877, 1921 and 1996. The worse was a 7.1 Richter Scale quake in 2007 that left 92 people dead.

9. Tijuana, Mexico. Pop: 5,000,000. When people think of big cities of the West Coast, LA & SF come to mind. But these cosmopolitan cities are much better prepared for a quake than TJ. With millions of people living in un-zoned makeshift homes of concrete, bricks and corrugated steel roofs, a 6.0 earthquake centered in Tijuana would kill an estimated 50,000 people.

8. Tokyo, Japan. Pop: 20,000,000. No city on earth is better prepared for a massive quake than Tokyo. Unfortunately, no metropolis in more vulnerable to seismic activity. The 1923 Great Kanto Quake killed 140,000...the worst in the last century. As a result, Tokyo was rebuilt with tremblors in mind. When a 6.1 quake struck the city in May, damages were non-existent.

7. Istanbul, Turkey. Pop: 14,000,000  Located right on the edge of the Eurasian and African tectonic plates, Istanbul is precarious. The Anatolian Fault runs directly below. A jolt in 1509 destroyed all the walls and fortifications. Recently, in 1999, a nearby quake still killed 18,000. With shoddy construction bolstered by municipal bribes, predictions of a big quake are dreary.

6. Jakarta, Indonesia. Pop: 18,000,000. Unregulated growth has seen massive landfill projects in the North. This means that 40% of the capital is under sea level on unsteady ground. Indonesia is no stranger to earthquakes...more happen here than on any other nation on earth. Fortunately, economic growth has led to a new interest in retrofitting.

5. Manila, Philippines. Pop: 15,000,000. This island nation has seen its share of deadly quakes. Fortunately, they have not struck the capital...yet.  A 7.2 quake last year killed 300, and a 7.8 quake in 1990 killed 1600 and a 7.9 trembler in 1976 had a 40,000 death toll. None of these occurred in a densely populated area. If a 7.0 or greater quake hit Manila, one of the world's most densely populated areas, it would be horrific.

4. Kathmandu, Nepal. Pop: 1,500,000. When most people think of Nepal, they imagine snow capped Himalayan peaks graced by pristine rivers. Downstream is the teaming capital of Kathmandu. With scant natural resources and shaky shale bedrock, it's estimated 60% of the buildings would collapse in a 6.0 earthquake. 10% of the population would perish.

3. Mexico City, Mexico. Pop: 20,000,000. Like Kathmandu, Mexico City was built on dried lakes, salt beds and unstable bedrock. Even without earthquakes, buildings like the Guadalupe Cathedral have sunk 10 feet in the last ten years. So when tremblors do strike, their devastation is magnified. Even though the 8.1 quake in 1985 was 500 miles away, over 100,000 people lost their lives.

2. Quito, Ecuador. Pop: 2,000,000. Since its founding in the year 1534, Quito has been hit by one natural disaster after another. See, no other major world city lies at the base of an active volcano. Mighty Pichincha doesn't erupt often, but when it does it covers the city in ash. It is also responsible for sudden and violent quakes.

1. New Delhi, India. Pop: 20,000,000. The reason why New Delhi tops our list is their lack of recent activity. Although not located on a major fault line, earthquakes strike this region routinely. The last on in 2007 was only a 4.7, yet it caused widespread panic, looting and general chaos. Since Delhi is overdue for a big quake, we can only imagine the pandemonium that will inevitably result from a 6.0 or greater earthquake.

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