1 Million Dead in 30 Seconds


The odds of more Haiti-scale destruction are growing by the day because the world is urbanizing. Two hundred years ago, Peking was the only city in the world with a population of a million people. Today, almost 500 cities are that big, and many are much bigger. That explains why the number of earthquake-caused deaths during the first decade of this century (471,015) was more than four times greater than the number during the previous decade, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. National Earthquake Information Center. If the fatality trend continues upward—and it will, because the urbanization trend is continuing upward, as is the trend of housing migrant populations in death traps—it won’t be long before we see a headline announcing 1 million dead in massive earthquake. Indeed, we’ll be lucky not to see it in our lifetimes. Just as we know how to build airplanes that don’t crash, we know how to construct buildings that don’t collapse. If you want to learn how to do it, grab some marbles and a Teflon baking sheet and follow the sixth-grade lesson plan on Discovery Online. We also know which cities are most at risk: Bogotá, Cairo, Caracas, Dhaka, Islamabad, Istanbul, Jakarta, Karachi, Katmandu, Lima, Manila, Mexico City, New Delhi, Quito, and Tehran. Los Angeles and Tokyo are prime candidates for a major quake, but they will probably survive, since they are well built—though L.A. could do better. New York is at greater risk than people realize.

more from Claire Berlinski at City Journal here.