Experts warn that an even worse disaster is imminent as the planet is overdue for a high-magnitude earthquakes along the Earth’s largest fault lines, even as Italy was devastated last week with hundreds of lives lost already.
On Saturday, two earthquakes hit the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, a senior disaster management official said.
Fortunately, there have been no reports of any casualty or damage to properties in the two quakes that hit the hilly state in a span of just 20 minutes, the official said, on condition of anonymity.
According to India’s National Centre of Seismology, the first quake was measured at 4.6 magnitude, while the second one was of 4. 3 magnitude.
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The quakes took place between 6.40 a.m. and 7.05 a.m. local time and has an epicenter in the town of Kullu.
The northern Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are earthquake-prone zones, so are the national capital and its adjoining areas.
On Friday, UTS Geotechnical and Earthquake Engineering senior lecturer Dr. Behzad Fatahi warned that “no one in the world is safe,” and that the question isn’t “if” they will occur, but “when”.
Areas which include the Middle East, India, China, Japan and the US are a lot overdue for a magnitude 6-plus quakes, some fault lines that have not released their energy for a while, Fatahi told a news outlet in Australia.
Death toll in central Italy earthquake rises to at least 291. pic.twitter.com/TbWaqSK2vH
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A fault line represented by two tectonic plates moving at different speeds and in different directions relative to each other need to release energy.
As the pressure continues to mount the longer they go without releasing, the more powerful it will be when they do.
“At least five to 10 that are overdue, but we don’t know when they’re going to happen. The question is not will they be activated. The question is when,” Fatahi said.
In the United States, scientists warn that California, Alaska, and Hawaii are at the greatest risk.
In 2008, the US Geological Survey warned that an earthquake of a 7.8 magnitude or greater could result in more than 1,800 deaths, at least 50,000 injuries, and cause some US $200 billion in damage.
The federal agency also warned that sewer systems could be taken out of service for up to six months.
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Director for communication, education and outreach for the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) Mark Benthien, in Radio Sputnik Loud and Clear program of Brian Becker, warned that the potential for an earthquake “much larger” than the recent temblor in Italy is high.
“We could have a larger earthquake, a much larger earthquake, than what happened in Italy, on [California’s] San Andreas fault, or any of the other hundreds of faults in California, really at any time. It’s just the reality of living on a plate boundary of the Earth’s crust,” Benthien explained.
“Pressure is building up and eventually it’s going to slip, like snapping your fingers, and release that pressure,” he said.
Benthien explained that an earthquake along any one of the large California faults will likely cover a much larger area than that in Italy, and will shake more intensely for a longer period of time. He predicted that strong shaking could last up to two minutes.
On a positive note he explained that, unlike in Italy, which has many very old and even ancient buildings, structures in California are much newer, and most are built with earthquakes in mind. Due to this, he opined that a lower number of fatalities could be expected.
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The main concern, according to Benthien, is what will happen after the “big one” strikes. He warned that infrastructure failure could force people to evacuate, or, in a worst-case scenario, cause looting and violence resulting in martial law and basic survival tactics.
In Diablo Canyon, on the central Pacific coast of California, there is a nuclear reactor still in use, which could lead to a disaster on the scale of Fukushima.
It is impossible to accurately predict an earthquake, and be able to prepare.
“Usually with earthquakes you can only measure them around one minute before they happen, as the activity happens kilometers below ground,” Fatahi said. (Sputnik / Xinhua)