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Tectonic Case studies

The Kobe Earthquake – an earthquake in an HIC (High Income Country)
Kobe is located in the south east of Japan, near a destructive plate margin. It is a megacity and has one of the largest container ports in the World.  Although further from a plate margin than most of the cities in Japan, Kobe is still found on a fault line. 

Kobe Sketch map

The earthquake that hit Kobe during the winter of 1995 measured 6.9 on the Richter scale. At this plate margin, the Pacific plate is being pushed under the Eurasian plate, stresses build up and when they are released the Earth shakes. This is known as an earthquake happening along a subduction zone. The focus was only 16km below the crust and this happened on the 17th Jan 1995 at 5.46am. 10 million people live in this area.

Damage in Kobe Earthquake
By 松岡明芳 (GFDL)

The effects of this earthquake were catastrophic for a HIC.  Despite some buildings having been made earthquake proof during recent years many of the older buildings simply toppled over or collapsed.  A lot of the traditional wooden buildings survived the earthquake but burnt down in fires caused by broken gas and electricity lines. Other effects included;
•  More than 5000 died in the quake
• 300,000 were made homeless
• More than 102,000 buildings were destroyed in Kobe, especially the older wooden buildings.
• Estimated cost to rebuild the basics = £100 billion.
• The worst affected area was in the central part of Kobe including the main docks and port area. This area is built on soft and easily moved rocks, especially the port itself which is built on reclaimed ground. Here the ground actually liquefied and acted like thick soup, allowing buildings to topple sideways.
• Emergency aid for the city needed to use damaged roads but many of them were destroyed during the earthquake.
• Raised motorways collapsed during the shaking.  Other roads were affected, limiting rescue attempts.
• Many small roads were closed by fallen debris from buildings, or cracks and bumps caused by the ground moving.
• The earthquake occurred in the morning when people were cooking breakfast, causing over 300 fires, which took over 2 days to put out.

Responses to the quake
Water, electricity, gas, telephone services were fully working by July 1995 and the railways were back in service by August 1995
A year after the earthquake, 80% of the port was working but the Hanshin Expressway was still closed.
By January 1999, 134,000 housing units had been constructed but some people still had to live in temporary accommodation.
New laws were passed to make buildings and transport structures even more earthquake proof.
More instruments were installed in the area to monitor earthquake movements.
Most new buildings and roads have, in the last 20 years, been designed to be earthquake proof, schools and factories have regular earthquake drills, etc. Despite this, many older buildings still collapsed or caught fire. This led to many blocked roads and massive problems of homelessness.
Electricity and water supplies were badly damaged over large areas. This meant no power for heating, lights, cooking, etc. Clean, fresh water was in short supply until April 1995. The government and city authorities were criticised for being slow to rescue people and for refusing offers of help from other countries.

Collapsed buildings in Kobe Earthquake

By 松岡明芳 (GFDL)

Preparation – A lot of the buildings in Kobe and Japan made after the 1960s are earthquake proof (necessary by law) with counterweights on the roofs and cross steel frames.  Many of the damaged buildings in Kobe were built before this period and were made of wood, which caught fire. People are educated on earthquake preparation in Japan.
Prediction – Japan has the world’s most comprehensive prediction programme with thousands of seismometers and monitoring stations in Japan designed to give warning.  Kobe hadn’t had an earthquake in 400years and had less prediction equipment than other areas of Japan.
Aid – The Japanese rejected international offers of aid and dealt with the earthquake itself.  All of the homeless people were dealt with reasonably quickly and the city recovered thanks to government money.


Haiti Earthquake, Caribbean (LIC)

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, its GDP is only $1,200 per person, 207th in the world, and its HDI is incredibly low at 0.404, 145th in the world and 80 % of its 9.7 Million people live below the poverty line.

Port Au Prince, the capital, is on a fault line running off the Puerto Rico Trench, where the North American Plate is sliding under the Caribbean plate.  There were many aftershocks after the main event. The earthquake occurred on January 12th 2010, the epicentre was centred just 10 miles southwest of the capital city, Port au Prince and the quake was shallow—only about 10-15 kilometres below the land's surface.  The event measured 7.0 on the Richter Magnitude scale.

Haiti Sketch map

There were many impacts including;
•316,000 people died and more than a million people were made homeless, even in 2011 people remained in make shift temporary homes.  Large parts of this impoverished nation were damaged, most importantly the capital Port Au Prince, where shanty towns and even the presidential palace crumbled to dust. 3 million people in total were affected. Few of the Buildings in Haiti were built with earthquakes in mind, contributing to their collapse
•The government of Haiti also estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.  The port, other major roads and communication links were damaged beyond repair and needed replacing.  The clothing industry, which accounts for two-thirds of Haiti's exports, reported structural damage at manufacturing facilities.  It is estimated the 1 in 5 jobs were lost as a result of the quake
•Rubble from collapsed buildings blocked roads and rail links.
• The port was destroyed
• Sea levels in local areas changed, with some parts of the land sinking below the sea
• The roads were littered with cracks and fault lines

Haiti Building Collapse

By Photo Marco Dormino/ The United Nations United Nations Development Programme 

Short term responses
Many countries responded to appeals for aid, pledging funds and dispatching rescue and medical teams, engineers and support personnel.
Communication systems, air, land, and sea transport facilities, hospitals, and electrical networks had been damaged by the earthquake, which slowed rescue and aid efforts.
There was much confusion over who was in charge, air traffic congestion, and problems with prioritisation of flights further complicated early relief work.
Port-au-Prince's morgues were quickly overwhelmed with many tens of thousands of bodies having to be buried in mass graves.
As rescues tailed off, supplies, medical care and sanitation became priorities.
Delays in aid distribution led to angry appeals from aid workers and survivors, and looting and sporadic violence were observed.
Medicines San Frontiers, a charity, tried to help casualties whilst the USA took charge of trying to coordinate Aid distribution

Damage during Haiti Earthquake

Long term recovery:
• The EU gave $330 million and the World Bank waived the countries debt repayments for 5 years.
• The Senegalese offered land in Senegal to any Haitians who wanted it!
• 6 months after the quake, 98% of the rubble remained uncleared, some still blocking vital access roads.
• The number of people in relief camps of tents and tarps since the quake was 1.6 million, and almost no transitional housing had been built.  Most of the camps had no electricity, running water, or sewage disposal, and the tents were beginning to fall apart.
• Between 23 major charities, $1.1 billion had been collected for Haiti for relief efforts, but only two percent of the money had been released
• One year after the earthquake 1 million people remained displaced
• The Dominican Republic which neighbours Haiti offered support and accepted some refugees.

Haiti Aid

By Daniel Barker, U.S. Navy




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