PerspectiveGeophysics

Buildings as Weapons of Mass Destruction

Science  09 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6146, pp. 618-619
DOI: 10.1126/science.1238476

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Summary

A quarter of the world's population inhabits the nations of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. These countries lie on or near the northern edge of the Arabian and Indian Plates that are colliding with the southern margin of the Eurasian Plate (see the figure, panel A) . The collision occurs mid-continent and, as a result, earthquakes have historically destroyed many settlements, especially in Iran (1). Deaths from earthquakes since 1900 have exceeded those in all previous centuries, and earthquake deaths to the east of Iran have far outnumbered those in Iran (see the figure, panel B). We ascribe this to the recently increased population at risk in Pakistan and India and to the fragility of construction methods introduced there in the past century.