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Quakes are inevitable. Huge death tolls are not

By Gearoid Reidy

23 Feb 2023 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

The tragedy in Turkey and Syria must serve as a "wake-up call" for people in other earthquake prone areas of the world—including for the U.S. West Coast, argues Bloomberg's Gearoid Reidy.

Earthquakes can neither be prevented nor predicted. If a Category 5 typhoon nears, evacuations are possible; there can be time to move to a safe zone before the pyroclastic flow of a volcano sweeps all in its path. But when the earth shakes, it almost never comes with a warning. Even in the most technologically prepared countries, there's typically just seconds to alert operating rooms and halt trains before the devastation hits.

It's safe to say that Turkey and war-torn Syria are far from the most-prepared countries. The death toll from February's quakes is nearing 50,000, and expected to rise further with untold numbers still missing. The damage is continuing, with more deaths coming this week from powerful aftershocks collapsing buildings that survived the initial tremors. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that it was "impossible to prepare" for a disaster this big.

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