The effects of earthquakes on humans can never be overemphasized. On the afternoon of May 22nd, 1950, from nowhere, while everyone was carrying on with their lives, an earthquake hit Valdivia.
In the history of earthquakes, it would later be recorded as one of the worst to ever occur.
To date, the death toll remains unclear, with estimates of close to 6000 people losing their lives.
That wasn’t the first, and I fear to state that neither is the last. Earthquakes have been happening in several places on God’s earth.
Mild or strong, they leave a permanent effect, the aftermath of an earthquake is saddening and irreplaceable.
The effects of earthquakes on humans range from claiming lives, taking down buildings, and environmental degradation to burying people and livestock alive, earthquakes are a real menace.
We can only pray that they do not occur, and when they do, may we be spared.
What Causes Earthquakes?
One of the things none of us can ever wish for is to be in the way of an earthquake. Earthquakes neither have sight, brain nor mercy.
When they occur, they can travel as far as they wish, taking with them anything and everything they come across, alive or lifeless.
For example, the May 22nd earthquake swept across Valdivia for 10 minutes, traveling at a terrific speed of 16km per hour, covering 160km in just ten minutes.
The impact of the earthquake could be heard 10000 km away from Valdivia, with tremors and shock.
What causes earthquakes might best be explained scientifically, although human activities such as mining have doubled the impact and the probability of earthquakes occurring.
The main cause of them is the movement of tectonic plates in the earth’s crust.
There occurs a build-up of pressure as these plates rub against each other leading to the breaking of the crust at a pressure that causes the earthquakes.
The events before and after one may talk a whole syllabus to explain!
For today, let us delve into the effects of earthquakes on humans and what can be done to tone down the effects.
Destruction of Lives
Lives are sacred and the loss of any is painful. During an earthquake, children, mothers, or fathers succumb to it.
Studies reveal that the main cause of death in an earthquake is a shock.
Similarly, buildings collapse on people, some are buried alive and the destruction doesn’t stop with humans, animals are killed and life is lost.
In the Alaskan Great Earthquake of 1964, 23 people were killed with hundreds of others surviving with injuries that left them incapable and lam.
In the Valdivia earthquake, 6,000 or more people lost their lives, some were found, and some were not. These are mass graves, a loss to society, and a pain.
Earthquakes have been claiming lives since time immemorial, they still will, hope is all we have left.
Some people have linked earthquakes to bringing God’s wrath on humans, but we doubt that can’t be it, there isn’t God’s hand in it.
Earthquakes are natural disasters like all else, triggered by activities in the earth’s crust that might well be beyond our control.
All we can do is invest in the study of the patterns of earthquakes, predict them when they loom, and evacuate areas where one is anticipated.
Mental and Psychological Effects
The aftermath of an earthquake leaves questions in the minds of survivors, why them? What happens next? What value is life?
How about their lost loved one’s families and friends? Why did they have to survive? and with the injuries, wouldn’t death have been better?
The victims of an earthquake are left challenged mentally, some have been reported to commit suicide after presuming that all hope was lost.
Governments, agencies, and well-wishers have invested time and resources in aiding the victims and the bereaved.
Other than offering financial support to them, victims are compensated by governments and talked to by people to reassure them that all is not lost.
There is a life to live after the earthquake, a society to rebuild, and hope for a better future. It is never the act of God.
While victims might be mentally challenged, we can stay together with them. We should also support them until they are healed and settled.
An earthquake should never be the death of our fellow humans.
Collapse of Infrastructure
It takes hard work, self-determination, and drive to build a country. People invest in infrastructure and put up storey buildings to make towns and cities good-looking.
But it is disheartening and disorienting when all that is brought in under ten minutes.
In San Francisco, the year was 1989, a major earthquake thrust the earth, leaving everything in shambles. It claimed 63 lives.
Come to think of San Francisco, one of the most well-built cities in the world, how much would it lose in the event of an earthquake?
Studies show that property worth 6billion dollars was damaged, leaving another estimate of 4000 human injuries.
In San Francisco, and anywhere else, hard-built infrastructure, storey buildings of value, schools, hospitals, and other social amenities were taken down mercilessly.
The collapse of infrastructure takes a toll on the economic situation of a country, it calls for rebuilding, restrategizing, and starting off afresh. That is absolutely saddening.
Why do earthquakes have to be so lethal? Other than the destruction of lives, they do not spare the environment.
The environment humans live in determines the quality and value of life.
The strongest earthquakes deal a blow to the environment, like:
- Raising clouds of dust,
- Breaking water pipes, petroleum pipes, and oil pipes,
- Releasing radioactive materials into the environment.
The air left after one is unclean with precipitates of poisonous materials, that make victims develop breathing complications and cancerous tumors in the long run.
Upon an earthquake, fires are triggered by electrical poles or exposed petroleum from ruptured pipelines.
The fires consume everything, something dubbed as double trouble. Water is left contaminated with poisonous chemicals, leaving behind a sanitation problem to deal with.
In 1556, long long ago, this is in records.
In Shaanxi province of China, on the night of January 23rd, the deadliest earthquake believed to be the worst in the history of earthquakes tore down Shaanxi province and its environs.
It was estimated to have a magnitude of 8, the worst in the records.
Now, 830,000 people or more were killed reducing the population of the provinces affected enormously.
2 million other casualties were left with injuries, broken legs, knees, hands, and backs, and more than 1 million were reclined in wheelchairs.
Injuries that are painful, ones that cause cries and anguish.
Authorities, armies, clinical officers, and every other well-wisher stepped in to conduct first aid, that had been a night of terror.
A night that lingers in the minds of children of Shaanxi province, the deaths, and the injuries were way more. Many others would later die from the injuries in large numbers.
Everywhere else, although since then, there has been a low count on the number of deaths and injuries, those of the latter remains to be the highest.
How to Tone Down the Effects of Earthquakes on Humans
Truth be told, earthquakes will still happen, the modern man is too bright, and although we may not outshine the acts of nature, we can always prevent the desperation that comes with earthquakes.
Quickly, here are some of the steps humans can take to tone down the effects of earthquakes.
- Build stronger, safer structures.
- Train the society on security and safety measures to take in the event of one.
- Prepare for earthquakes.
- Invest in the research on earthquakes, predict them, and evacuate people and animals from areas in danger for one.
- Stay away from heavy falling objects in the event of an earthquake.
- Own a disaster first aid kit.
That said, we wish to conclude by stating that the effects of earthquakes on humans can be controlled.
We cannot prevent the occurrence of one, but preparedness amidst following all other best practices to keep humans alive during an earthquake can do much in saving lives.
Earthquakes should not be the death of us, we have to live with them and outshine them.
Whenever they occur, we all stay alive. Shall we?