Connecting dots between earthquake fatalities and corrupt building practices

According to ScienceDaily,

A new assessment of global earthquake fatalities over the past three decades indicates that 83 percent of all deaths caused by the collapse of buildings during earthquakes occurred in countries considered to be unusually corrupt.

The assessment authored by Professor Nicholas Ambraseys of the Imperial College of London and Professor Roger Bilham of the University Colorado at Boulder provides example, a 7 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand in 2010 has had zero fatalities while Haiti quake in the same year of same magnitude has had fatalities of apocalyptic proportion; 2,30000 died and 2 million were displaced. On the other hand, Christchurch with population of 372,000 survived without fatalities. These comparative facts convince us without much effort that chance of ‘fatalities’ is much higher due to earthquake at corrupt territories.

8.8 magnitude of Chile quake in 2010, which is 500 times stronger than that of Haiti, caused around 795 deaths and damage partly because of Tsunami. 9 magnitude of Japan quake in 2011 caused around eighteen thousand dead and mostly fatalities were resulted due to Tsunami. In 2004, Sumatra-Andaman quake of 9.1 magnitude killed 227,898 people, which was caused apparently by disastrous Tsunami. Apart from Tsunami, fatalities out of earthquake are much lesser in the context of Chile and Japan despite 9 magnitude shaking. According to corruption perceptions Index 2011, Japan scores 8 with rank 14, Chile scores 7.2 securing rank 22, New Zealand tops the list with a score 9.5, Haiti is in the bottom section of the list scoring 1.8 and ranking 175. In the measurement scale 0 means highly corrupt and 10 means the country is very clean. Here, we can see clear connection between country’s corruption status and collapsing buildings caused by earthquake. More precisely death list of Haiti in 2010 quake was longer because of wide-spread corruption in building practices.

Population density is also an issue besides vulnerability of building, but why always this population density is higher in corrupt nations comparing almost close to ‘zero population growth’ in developed nations, is another pressing question that needs further investigation.

Many of us might have a perception that earth is a nice planet having human species and not a rough one and frequent earthquakes are today leading to challenging situation for human survival, and the quakes are not supposed to happen often; but USGS estimates that several million earthquakes are triggered across the world each year. This agency publishes data of around 14,500 earthquakes worldwide; and the criteria is, the magnitude needs to be higher than 4.5 for worldwide publication. People usually get news about 12 to 18 out of several million quakes due to overwhelming media coverage, which contain magnitude 7 or more per year. Thus, continuously occurring lower magnitude tremors usually go unnoticed and much higher magnitude quakes at remote areas with less or no population do not get media attention as well as coverage.

If we look at South Asia, according to corruption perceptions index, India scores 3.1 and ranks 95, Pakistan scores 2.5 and ranks 134, Nepal scores 2.2 and ranks 154, Sri Lanka scores 3.3 and ranks 86, Afghanistan scores 1.5 and ranks 180, Maldives score 2.5 and rank 134, and Bangladesh scores 2.7 and ranks 120. Only Bhutan appears moderately clean country in the region scoring 5.7 and ranking 38. Hence, connecting the dots, it could be said that impact of higher magnitude earthquakes similar to what had hit in Japan, New Zealand, Chile and Haiti, could bring catastrophic consequences in this region having remarkably denser population due to collapse of hundreds and thousands , if not millions, of corruptly built structures. Why density of population is lesser in relatively cleaner country Bhutan, I haven’t got the answer yet.

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