US Scientists Predict Impact of a Big Quake on California
Washington, DC: If the much-feared "Big One" struck California, the massive earthquake would leave 1,800 dead, 50,000 wounded and 200 billion dollars in damage, a team of scientists said.
In a hypothetical scenario dubbed "Shakeout," a team of experts described the effects of a 7.8 magnitude quake similar to the one that hit China on May 12, which killed more than 50,000.
The scenario has the quake located on the famous San Andreas fault that runs through the country's most populous state, with the epicenter in Southern California.
"This is not a worst case scenario, it's merely a credible scenario," David Applegate of the US Geological Survey told lawmakers at a hearing in Congress.
The scripted exercise has the quake hitting at about 10:00 am on November 13, 2008. In the minutes that follow, 10 million people feel the ground shake. In downtown Los Angeles, strong shaking lasts for 55 seconds.
Despite the high number of people exposed to the earthquake's power, safety precautions contain the death toll directly attributed to the tremblor, with an estimated 1,800 killed.
All un-reinforced buildings made of masonry within 15 miles of the fault are totally destroyed. More than 600,000 buildings suffer some type of damage, leaving thousands without homes or jobs.
Fires break out across Southern California, with 1,600 blazes warranting emergency calls.
The deadly fires double the number of deaths and economic damage from the quake. The disaster renders nearly two-thirds of hospital beds unavailable, even as 50,000 people seek treatment in emergency rooms.
The quake also knocks out key bridges, water pipes, power lines, railways, the telecommunications network and aqueducts.
The water system would suffer the greatest long-term damage and it would take six months to restore water to some buildings, according to the scenario.
The analysis, which involved the work of more than 300 scientists and other experts, will serve as a basis for an elaborate earthquake preparedness drill to be held in November in California, the USGS said in a statement.