“Epicenters” of resilience

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Science  17 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6207, pp. 283
DOI: 10.1126/science.1261788

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The 25th anniversary of the magnitude (M) 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake that struck the San Francisco Bay Area on 17 October 1989 is a fitting time to examine what progress has been made in increasing community resilience to minimize seismic risk. The regions affected by the 2010 M 7.0 earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and the M 8.8 event near Concepción, Chile, a few weeks later illustrate the extremes in earthquake resilience. In the zone of most intense shaking, 1 of every 10 Haitians was killed, compared to 1 of every 2500 Chileans, reflecting huge differences in construction quality and community resilience. The Loma Prieta event left 63 people dead, largely the result of the collapse of a bridge, an overpass, and homes built on unconsolidated fill. But beyond the loss of life, the Bay Area was affected by more than $10 billion in disruption of economic activity and damaged infrastructure. One challenge in implementing community resilience is to use science and engineering to find solutions that not only save lives but also get communities back to business as quickly as possible after a seismic event.