Waiting for the big one?


Today, San Francisco marked the 100th anniversary of the earthquake that killed almost 3,000 people (most of them perished in the fires that spread post-earthquake). Although it has been a hundred years since a natural calamity flattened the ‘Paris of the New World’as it was called in the 19th century, little had changed in terms of vulnerability for an earthquake today. In fact, a similar magnitude earthquake today would inflict more damage and cause more shaking, and probably also kill more people due to increased density.

It is surprising to note that in spite of all our technological progress, we still remain susceptible to natural calamities and can do little to prevent them. We can all make great exhortations about the way we have established ourselves as the dominant species on the planet but yet at the end of the day, the planet still reigns supreme. The previous year was calamitous causing untold damage and killing hundreds of thousands in both developing and developed countries. The earthquake unfortunately remains as mankind’s greatest threat and its unpredictable nature simply adds mystery to the death it brings in an instant.

Urban agglomerations have formed human populations to concentrate at fewer locations than ever before. The world population increases and the urban areas grows. Such high concentration of people in a single location is extremely dangerous when earthquake strikes. Unfortunately, the more populous urban regions like Tokyo, Bombay, San Francisco, etc also lie on the seismic-sensitive zones. Does this strike a blow to dense and compact living?

Will the next big one give us the answer?