Urban Hazards

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Science  07 Jan 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5706, pp. 18
DOI: 10.1126/science.307.5706.18e

In comparison to the fourfold increase in the world's population to about 6 billion, the percentage of people killed in earthquakes declined only slightly from 1900 to 2000. Although this trend has been assumed to reflect better building codes, Bilham's analysis suggests that this is not quite so, because (i) the number of fatalities per year is increasing; (ii) extreme events are not considered in the analyses; and (iii) the greatest seismic hazards and largest number of historic fatalities are concentrated in five countries: China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and Turkey, such that averaging over the global population tends to minimize the real problems. Today, there are about 100 cities of more than 3 million people, and half of these lie in earthquake zones. Soon, more people will live in cities than in rural areas, and by 2030 the population of Tokyo is predicted to reach 70 million. Combining the concentration of people in larger cities with the faster pace of construction caused by rapid growth means that it will be imperative to improve building codes and to monitor compliance more stringently in order to reduce earthquake fatalities. — LR

Seismol. Res. Lett. 75, 706 (2004).

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