Buildings as Weapons of Mass Destruction

Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.
Science (Impact Factor: 33.61). 08/2013; 341(6146):618-9. DOI: 10.1126/science.1238476
Source: PubMed


The enforcement of sound building practices would substantially reduce future fatalities from earthquakes in south central Asia.

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    • "It is expected that the greatest share of future construction activities will take place in smaller cities and towns in countries of the Global South, where building quality is generally lower than in wealthier societies (Jackson 2006; BiLham 2009). Poorly located and substandard housing poses a high risk to resident populations; leading them to be figuratively called " weapons of mass destruction " (BiLham and gaur 2013) in the event of a major earthquake. Situated at the centre of the tectonically active Himalayan range, Nepal is one of the countries with the highest potential earthquake hazard (mosqueramachado and diLLey 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: The rapid urban development of Musikot from a small bazaar settlement to a mid-size trade and service centre in rural Nepal increases the vulnerability of its inhabitants to natural hazards. Population growth and improved road accessibility has led to increased construction and an expansion and alteration of the built environment. The growing availability of modern construction materials like concrete and steel allows for new architectural designs and the erection of additional storeys on existing buildings, which contributes to the instability of the building stock. The aftermath of the April 2015 Gorkha Earthquake demonstrates the severe consequences of such haphazard construction practices in seismically active locations. A lack of implementation and enforcement of regulatory frameworks for building construction and spatial planning raises the risks for the local population. Taking Musikot as a characteristic case study of rapid urban change, this article analyses it’s increasing local earthquake-risk in light of insufficient seismic building code implementation and risk-sensitive urban planning. Applying an approach that combines repeat photography and field mapping, the urban development of Musikot and the increasing fragility of the building stock are assessed using a modified seismic evaluation scheme for local building types. Almost one fourth of all construction was found to be at high risk of damage to earthquakes. It is argued, that without proper training in earthquake resistant construction techniques and awareness campaigns, the (mal-)adoption of modern construction materials will amplify earthquake risk in rural centres. This study stresses the need to broaden the research of disaster risk reduction and adequate adaptation strategies beyond the current focus on large agglomerations to include rapidly urbanising small settlements in rural areas, which are all too often neglected.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Erdkunde
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    ABSTRACT: How can a higher level of earthquake preparedness be achieved, particularly in developing nations?
    No preview · Article · Sep 2013 · Science
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    Article: References

    Preview · Article · Dec 2014 · Developments in Earth Surface Processes