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Why So Many Earthquakes?

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First the ground shook in Haiti, then Chile, Turkey and now Japan. The earthquakes keep coming hard and fast, causing people to wonder if the world is coming to an end ...

It's not. While it may seem as if there are more earthquakes occurring, there really aren't. The problem is what's happening above ground, not underground. More people are moving into megacities that happen to be built on fault lines, and they're rapidly putting up buildings that can't withstand earthquakes.

Earthquakes shake everythingEarthquakes shake everything

Plus, around-the-clock and widespread news coverage on TV and through the Internet, as well as and better seismic monitoring make it seem as if earthquakes are happening constantly these days.

Quake Stake

A 7.0 magnitude quake last year killed more than 230,000 people in Haiti. Then, 8.8 magnitude quake - one of the strongest since 1900 - killed more than 900 people in Chile. A few days later, a strong 6.0 magnitude quake struck Turkey. And most recently, a 9.0 magnitude quake hit Japan, causing a huge tsunami, plus concerns over a radiation risk due to damage to a nuclear power station. But, on average each year there are 134 earthquakes with a magnitude between a 6.0 and 6.9. So, really, we haven't been experiencing more quakes than normal lately.

The Richter ScaleThe Richter Scale

Lives Lost

As for the number of lives that have been lost due to recent earthquakes, that is partly due to poor construction practices in some countries that result in buildings that aren't earthquake-proof and can't stand the impact of an earthquake. In fact, it's really not earthquakes that kill people - it's buildings that shake and collapse when a quake hits.

The second part of the problem is something referred to as a megacity - a city that is crammed with way too many people. The more people living in a city when it is hit by an earthquake, the hire the death toll is likely to be. It makes total sense if you think about it.

Future Fears

Unfortunately, disaster and earthquake experts say the problem will only get worse. Of the 130 cities worldwide with more than 1 million population, more than half are on fault lines, making them more prone to earthquakes. Also, some poorer countries don't get their citizens ready for an earthquake, and that's why buildings aren't built up to standard and people don't know what to do to stay safe when a quake hits. Of course, when you're busy worrying about having enough food to eat, being ready for an earthquake doesn't really seem as important.

Mass Media

Finally, another reason quakes seems worse is that we're paying attention more. With super-fast ways of being connected to the rest of the world and getting information instantly from thousands of miles away, it's easier than ever to know what's going on in all four corners of the earth at all times. In other words, no earthquake goes unnoticed in this day and age, and that's also making it seem like there are more earthquakes happening - when really, there aren't.

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