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To what extent is the impact of an earthquake related to its strength?

Many factors determine the impact and severity of an earthquake ranging across
both human and physical. The strength of the earthquake may determine how
powerful the shockwaves are but if other factors such as the depth of the focus,
location of the epicentre and the preparedness of the area hit are in our favour,
the strength of the earthquake will have a more limited impact on how severe
the earthquake is overall.
The strength of an earthquake will always have some impact on how severe an
earthquake is overall. This is because the strength will have a large impact on
whether certain structures are to collapse and the damage as a result. A
magnitude 6 on the Richter scale is enough to cause buildings to sway and
weaker structures to partially collapse or at the very least debris to come off
regardless of the wealth of a country. Evidence for this is the 1994 LA earthquake
which totalled a 6.7 magnitude causing $15 billion in damage and killing 51
people. LA is a well prepared location for an earthquake to strike as advanced
warning would have been in place and emergency services on full alert to help
those that are injured to get them to hospitals. This shows that even an
earthquake located in an MEDC can cause large economic damage even with a
relatively mild strength that if it was higher in strength, would have caused more
large scale damage and deaths. However this example also shows how the
location of where the earthquake strikes is key to how many people are
killed/injured. This is because some locations will be far less prepared than
others and so emergency services will not be as quick to come and rescue those
in danger meaning death tolls will be higher. In LEDC nations such as India and
Haiti to name some examples, the emergency services will be far slower to react
especially in Haiti where no significant earthquakes previously occurred limiting
the areas knowledge of how to prepare.
Therefore the preparedness of a nation is crucial as a factor in determining the
severity of the impact of an earthquake. Comparing the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
and the 1994 earthquake in Los Angeles provides evidence for this. The Haiti
earthquake measure 7.0 on the Richter scale a very similar strength to that of
Los Angeles yet Haitis death toll was in excess of 200,000 people compared to
the tiny 51 suffered by LA. Therefore strength cannot be a factor in determining
such a gulf in death tolls and has to be determined by other factors, the largest
being how prepared both the areas were. Haitis building structure contributed
largely to its death toll as the buildings were not resistant enough to the power of
the earthquake and the resulting collapses trapped many underneath. With
homes completely destroyed over 1 million people were left homeless, compared
to none in the LA earthquake because the buildings were more resistant and
were damaged far less as a result. With such large damage, disease began to
spread as the provision on clean water and medicine was limited due to blocked
transport routes and generally being unable to afford the amount needed for
those in desperate need and so an aid appeal was needed to provide the funds
needed to supply vital supplies. The earthquake in LA had no aid appeal and the
provision of clean water was never an issue. This meant disease and hygiene

was kept under firm control and shows how the wealth of a nation in addition to
how well it is prepared can drastically reduce the number of impacts resulting
from an earthquake.
Another large factor in determining an earthquakes impact is the location of the
epicentre. Where an earthquake is located in terms of a country is one thing but
where an earthquake occurs within that country matters hugely. This is because
an earthquakes epicentre that is located in a populous area underneath a city is
more likely to cause more widespread damage than an epicentre located in a
rural area. Pairing this factor with strength largely determines how severe the
damage is caused by the earthquake because a strong magnitude 7 earthquake
in which its epicentre is located beneath a densely populated and built up area is
likely to cause large economic damage and death depending on its location. The
location of the epicentre also has an impact on whether a tsunami will occur.
Epicentres located out to sea will produce shockwaves that carry in the form of
sea waves causing a tsunami resulting in a high chance of flooding and more
death and destruction as the power of the wave causes buildings to be swept
away, trees to be uprooted and power stations to be damaged. This again shows
how strength is limited as a factor in determining how severe an earthquake is
because the location of an epicentre can determine whether a tsunami occurs
with the strength contributing to how powerful the tsunami is.
The impact of tsunamis are huge as the extra power of the wave can cause
more damage and longer lasting effects than an earthquake can. This is because
the shaking of an earthquake may only last a few seconds but a tsunami can last
up to an hour as a series of waves flood over the land. The Asian Tsunami of
Boxing Day 2004 shows the power of a tsunami causing affecting a number of
countries including Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia. The death toll alone in
Indonesia was over a 111,000 and the combined death toll of all countries
affected will never be known exactly. A huge appeal was launched globally to
help provide food, water and medicine to those affected as disease threatened to
kill many. The additional threat posed by tsunamis created by the location of the
epicentre of an earthquake is massive and more significant than strength alone;
however the strength of an earthquake still has an impact on how powerful a
tsunami can be. This is because the Asian tsunami measured an enormous 9.0
on the Richter scale. The power this earthquake possessed no doubt contributed
to the enormity of the tsunami and its speed. The Japan Tsunami of 2011 also
measured a 9.0 destroying large communities, killing 30,000 people and creating
the worlds worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl at Fukushima. If both
earthquakes were less in strength the tsunami may not have travelled as far or
as quickly. Comparing Japan and the Asian tsunami also reveals that despite both
earthquakes having the same strength, Japan received far less deaths at 30,000.
The reason again is because Japan is a far more prepared country than the
nations affected by the Asian Tsunami and sent out an advanced tsunami
warning on mobile phones alerting people during the day to find shelter or
evacuate. Better quality buildings and defences no doubt saved lives whereas in
the Asian tsunami many of the areas affected were low lying, without sea
defences and poorer quality buildings. This reiterates the point that the

preparation of a country and where an earthquake strikes is more important than

To conclude, the strength of an earthquake plays some significance in
determining the impact of an earthquake because it produces the power to
create damage. However unless paired with other factors such as the location of
the earthquake by country and the location of the epicentre, strength as a factor
alone is fairly insignificant because it is where the earthquake strikes that
determines how well prepared a nation is and the location of the epicentre
determines how much damage may occur in addition to the added threat of a
tsunami. It is the combination of these factors that determine the severity of the
earthquakes impact not one factor alone.