December 27, 2004

Earthquakes, Tsunamis

If you're a praying person, now would be a good time. I don't know whom to weep for harder: the dead, the survivors, or the millions of newly homeless people.

And I'm angry. Angry because we—the nations of the world—are killing each other when we need to be developing early-warning systems for every country that has people living along the coast of any sea or ocean. We need to be encouraging minimal building codes for developing countries: even in Mexico, people still run out of their homes when earthquakes hit. Out! Not in. That's how well-built the structures are. We can do better.

There was a two and a half hour gap between when the quake hit and when the tsunami reached the beaches, where people were sunbathing, fishing and swimming, unaware.

Sure, this tragedy doesn't compare with what Hitler and Stalin were able to "accomplish." But my heart aches, and it was so unnecessary. All we need is for Asians to get the same warnings Alaskans get before they are hit with massive tidal waves. That's not too much to ask.

Please. War on Terror: Win it now, and let's move on to making the world a safer place. If Mother Nature still turns on us this way, we ought to be able to band together and fight her instead of other people.

I know, I know: I'm a bleeding-heart conservative to my very core. But think about it. Please.

This article contains information on the reactions of L.A.-based Indian and Sri Lanken groups to the disaster, and a listing of the international aid agencies that will be sending help. If you have a few dollars to spare, please write a check to one of these organizations. And when you are finished shaking your fist at God, please ask Him to protect, feed, clothe and house those who now have nothing.

I don't know what it all means, except that there was nothing most of us could really do after 9/11. The most generous country in the world, hit on its mainland by mass murderers, sent canned corn and homemade quilts to New York City because we wanted to do something, dammit. There was nothing we could do, because the dead don't eat canned corn and don't use quilts.

Now there is something we can do, and the disaster is on a magnitude that dwarfs 9/11. Send canned goods, warm blankets, and—most importantly—hard cash.


Posted by Attila at December 27, 2004 01:19 AM

Well said, is there a donation site set up for it yet? (that you know of)

It would wonderful if the world took after California, Japan, & even Mexico City (to some degree) for building code (even in places that aren't in constant earthquake threat) and Japan and the West Coast for tsunami warning systems.

The only thing I would disagree with is the comment:
"even in Mexico, people still run out of their homes when earthquakes hit. Out! Not in. That's how well-built the structures are. We can do better."

In a large earthquake, its wise to get out of the building after the shaking stops because even in California the buildings are designed to survive the quake and long enough afterwards so you can get out of it. We still can't build the perfect building, but we can build a darn good one that gives you a fighting chance to get out alive.

Now building that can't survive a moderate shake and still be in the realm of useable is uncalled for and should be fixed. But as far as bigger earthquakes, my butt is running out of the building for some open space.

Posted by: the Pirate at December 27, 2004 09:33 AM

What did you do in '94?

I was referring above to people leaving a building while the shaking is still going on, which isn't wise, at least where buildings are decently constructed.

Afterward, the thing to do is check for gas leaks, and turn the gas off if necessary. Then you can assess the damage and figure out if the structure is still safe.

Posted by: Attila Girl at December 27, 2004 01:51 PM

In '94 I slept through the earthquake other than that I was in the 8th grade. But since then seismic design was one of my major requirements (we got to break model builings and shattered rienforced concret beams, and did concree compression tests quite fun really..well except when I founf out 4 & 5 ksi concrete can explode under pressure) and I get to see it again on the PE exam for CA.

Running in and out of buildings durring the earthquake isn't wise period and is more a result of people not knowing what to do durring the earthquake. Living with a non-california person during a minor trembler in college was a reminder of how what to do is almost second nature. I wouldn't be running out of the high-rise durring shaking, get hit by some granite facing, that would hurt a lot.

I agree that in many parts of the world that decent and construction aren't really used in the same sentence, its a huge problem. We are lucky in California, even though some people take all we know for granted think it means buildings are indistructable.

Posted by: the Pirate at December 27, 2004 02:14 PM

To be clear tho I'm not a proeffsional seismic guy, I'm more on the environmental side hydraulics, water/wastewater, solid waste, pollution, haz waste, biosolids and the such. But I'm still required to atleast know the fundamental concepts of the other aspects civil engineering (structures & siesmic) since we do design structures from time to time.

Posted by: the Pirate at December 27, 2004 02:17 PM

Gosh, I knew you were young, but . . . ;)

I know I'd rather be here during an earthquake than anywhere else: our structures are designed to take it (within limits, of course), and we mostly know what to do.

Any thoughts I might have had about indestructability of structures was cast in doubt during the Northridge quake, and finished off by 9/11.

Did you see L.A. Story? Nice earthquake scene, there.

Posted by: Attila Girl at December 28, 2004 03:54 PM

Another civil engineer? cool!
I don't do structures though. I'll probably start and end my career in the same place, deep in the bowels of this public water utility I work for.

Posted by: Desert Cat at December 28, 2004 11:04 PM

2 hours is plenty of time to evacuate people unfortuneatly geophysisits ( bad spelling) probalby arent listened to and governments are to scared to carry out mass evacuations because of panic but yet could have saved so many lives if they just swallowed thier pride and looked at helping people not worring about thier economy.

Posted by: charmaine powell at December 29, 2004 05:30 AM

Yup still a young buck.

LA Story, might of seen it on TBS when I was in Kindergarden. :P

DC- Where I work we do mostly the Environmental side of it. I couldn't bring myself to work for a Public/Government Agency, just felt like it would be feeding the beast. That and ever person I couldn't stand in school went to work for public angencies so it was stress avoidance too.

Posted by: the Pirate at December 29, 2004 06:52 AM

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