How and Why do the Impacts of Earthquakes Vary?


Earthquakes are vibrations which have been caused by the earth’s movements at plate boundaries and at major fault lines. They can occur on all plate boundaries, however the most violent and severe occur on conservative and destructive boundaries. Earthquakes impacts can differ largely due to many different environmental and social factors. Such as the time of day, or the wealth of the country. Within this essay, I shall intend to examine the variety of impacts caused by earthquakes and compare why some may have effects that are more dangerous than others.

Due to environmental factors such as the relief of land, the effects of earthquakes can differ hugely. Land that is more mountainous and is hit by an earthquake often has more destructive results when compared to an earthquake that takes place on flatter ground. For example, Sichuan, which at the time had a population of 81,000,000, was hit by an earthquake in 2008. The impacts of this earthquake were 90,000 deaths, 370,000 people injured, cities left in rubble and 10 million left homeless and jobless. These impacts are much larger than the results left by the earthquake that occurred in Chile in 2010. Chile had 521 deaths and more than 80% of Chile’s population was hit. With the total deaths of Sichuan being 172 times the amount caused by the Chile earthquake. This large variation is evident, despite the fact that the earthquake in Chile was higher on the Richter scale, at 8.8 compared to Sichuan’s Richter scale of 7.9. This shows that the results must have happened because of something other than the earthquakes force and power. This is partially due to the fact that Sichuan’s earthquake occurred in the mountainous central region of Sichuan and caused around 15,000 landslides. Due to this, the secondary impact of roads being shut occurred as debris had fallen, blocking the roads. This then meant that aid was unable to be brought from other places as they could not get in. However, Chile’s earthquake occurred close to the major city Santiago, which is located on mostly flat ground, meaning that no landslides were triggered due to the earthquake so help could be delivered to them quickly.

Impacts of earthquakes can also vary due to the wealth of the country hit by one. This economic factor can have a huge effect on how the country deals with the crisis. Countries with a higher economy will be less impacted by the earthquake as they can afford to compensate for things that have been destroyed, such as homes, hospitals and roads. For example, in Haiti (the poorest country in the Western hemisphere) which has a GDP per capita of 797 USD was struck by an earthquake in 2010 which had a magnitude of 7. Due to Haiti being so poor, the impacts they suffered, such as 1.3 million left homeless, 316,000 dead and many collapsed buildings, could not be so easily solved because they were already $1.2million in debt to the World Bank, IMF and the USA. These impacts were larger than the results of the earthquake in Kobe in 1995, located in South Eastern Japan, which has a GDP per capita of 40,250 USD. Kobe is an HIC and they managed to deal with their homelessness crisis quickly, with 250,000 homeless whereas Haiti still has not fully recovered, with an expected one million people still homeless from the earthquake. The variations are evidently linked to the country’s individual economies, as Kobe was able to rebuild homes and cities as they had enough money to do it. Compared to Haiti however, they did not have enough money to rebuild the homes, leaving many homeless and jobless. Showing that the reason for these variations is the country’s wealth, because countries with more money are able to pay for things that have been destroyed by the earthquake to be rebuilt. 

Countries hit by earthquakes can have varying impacts due to social factors, such as the time of the day. An earthquake that takes place at midday when everyone is out of their homes, will have a larger impact than an earthquake that occurs at night, while people are usually sleeping. For example, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake occurred at 8.50am and caused almost 80,000 deaths. This was 12 times the number of deaths that Kobe had during their earthquake in 1995, 6,432 deaths compared to Kashmir’s 80,000. The earthquake in Kobe occurred at 5.46am, a time of day when most are not awake, whereas the earthquake in Kashmir occurred at a time when many are on their way to work and out of the house. These variations are clear, despite the fact that both had close to the same amount of power behind them (Kashmir had a magnitude of 7.6 and Kobe had a magnitude of 7.3). The reason for these differences in the impacts is because they occurred at different times of the day. Kobe struck at a time when people were not outside of their homes, and therefore could not be killed by the earthquake that struck. Whereas in Kashmir, people were killed due to the fact that they were all in the city, working or going to school.

 

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