16 May 2008 17:29 [Source: ICIS news]
By Joe Kamalick
Named for a town in
Geologists rate it as the most dangerous seismic threat to the
“It will be a disaster unlike anything we’ve ever known and unlike anything we’ve ever planned for,” said Gary Paterson, a geologist and information services director at the Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI) at Memphis
When it comes, the next major quake along the New Madrid line “will affect ridiculously large areas compared with earthquakes in
A major quake of 7.5 to 8 magnitude on the Richter scale in the New Madrid rift would cause significant damage in eight states -
The last time the New Madrid rift produced a major trembler was in the winter of 1811-1812 when at least four quakes struck along the 200-mile region from December through the following February.
According to the US Geological Survey, the 1811 quake was probably of 8 magnitude. Damage from the quake was spread as far as
The earth moved so much and so violently that it caused church bells to ring in
An area of the Mississippi Valley 30 miles long by 15 miles wide was raised by as much as 30 feet while other parts of the quake zone subsided nearly 20 feet. Lakes were swallowed by open fissures in the earth.
A shift such as the famous 7.8 magnitude earthquake that all but destroyed
But, as in 1811, another New Madrid quake of near 8 magnitude would be felt for 1,000 miles in every direction as the trembler radiated more strongly through the hard and deep bedrock under the Midwest.
The loss of human life in the 1811 quake was minimal, chiefly because the area was largely unsettled.
But now that region of the US hosts nearly 11m people, 4m homes and hundreds of thousands of businesses, power plants, factories and communications hubs - and nearly 20% of US chemicals productive capacity.
The Central US Earthquake Consortium, a cooperative entity made up of US federal agencies and the eight states around the New Madrid line, estimates that the next major quake there would kill more than 4,000 people, put 15,000 others in hospitals and leave more than 40,000 residents among the walking wounded.
Another 63,000 people would be homeless and nearly 4m would be unemployed for more than a year. Property damage would be almost incalculable but certainly would run to the hundreds of billions of dollars.
The 3.8m homes and other residential or workplace structures in the area have a total replacement value of $590bn (€383bn). The replacement value of key infrastructure - roads, rail lines, utilities, communications hubs - is estimated at $370bn or more.
The New Madrid rift region contains more than 800 dams that the consortium classifies as high potential for loss, more than 5,000 hazardous materials sites and two nuclear power plants.
The eight-state area that would see the most severe damage from an 8-magnitude New Madrid quake contains key utility systems for natural gas, crude oil, refined products, electric power and communications. Damage to those systems would be felt, directly or indirectly, throughout much of the
For example, the consortium estimates that the 125,000 miles of natural gas pipelines that criss-cross the eight states would be ruptured in more than 36,000 places.
Some of those pipelines,
“If the New Madrid quake hits us in mid-winter, there will be many ramifications across the country,”
To give some idea of the scope of the inevitable New Madrid disaster,
Since late the late 1980s state and local governments in the eight-state region have been toughening building codes and strengthening key road and rail bridges.
Preparations are being made as fast as possible,
The US Geological Survey says that the probability of a major quake in the New Madrid seismic zone is 90% within the next 50 years - and for all anyone knows, it could be next week.
($1 = €0.65)Have you personally or your business been impacted by the earthquake in
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