Editorial: Turkey, Syria quake offers chilling reminder for Bay Area

1 month ago Lake County Record-Bee

The devastation and loss of life in Turkey and Syria following the 7.8 earthquake on Feb. 6 is heartbreaking.

At last count, nearly 42,000 people across both countries have been killed, and more than 50,000 buildings have either collapsed or are heavily damaged.

In the Bay Area, the thought is that level of devastation couldn’t possibly happen here in the event of a major earthquake. Think again. Estimates of what residents can expect are sobering.

Geologists years ago labeled the Hayward Fault a “tectonic time bomb.” In 2020, the California Earthquake Authority said there is roughly a 3 out of 4 chance of a major earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area by 2044.

Nearly 3 million people, or roughly 40% of the Bay Area’s population, live directly on the fault, including residents of Berkeley, Castro Valley, Fremont, Hayward, Oakland, San Leandro and Union City. In 2018, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that a 7.0 earthquake centered in Oakland would kill 800 people, displace 100,000 people from their homes and damage more than 1 million structures.

As catastrophic as that would be, water service could be interrupted in places for weeks or even months. One-third of of current jobs would be impacted, including tens of thousands of people working in health care, retail trade, manufacturing and professional services. Total property and business losses could exceed $82 billion as the result of the fault moving as much as two to six feet in some areas.

Typical homeowners insurance plans do not cover most structural damage caused by earthquakes. All of the cost for residential damage, repair and replacement caused by an earthquake would be out of pocket for those without earthquake insurance.

Bay Area residents can reduce the risk of damage by making sure their homes are bolted to their foundations. Water heaters should be strapped to the wall. Working fire extinguishers should be easily accessible. Large, heavy objects should be bolted to walls. Beds should be moved from under windows. Make an emergency supply kit  that includes water, food, flashlights, batteries, first aid kit, cell phone chargers and backup batteries, garbage bags and materials in case you need to shelter in place. Make a family safety plan so that everyone knows what to do in the event of an earthquake, including coming up with a person who lives outside your area who can serve as someone to pass along important messages.

The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 killed 63 people, injured nearly 4,000 and caused an estimated $6 billion to $10 billion in property damage. The major part of the damage occurred in downtown Santa Cruz, only 10 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Loma Prieta quake destroyed 20 buildings and displaced 50 businesses in downtown Santa Cruz. Oakland and San Francisco were 50 miles from the epicenter, but the quake collapsed the double-decked Nimitz Freeway Cypress structure and a section of the Bay Bridge. A severe earthquake along the Hayward Fault is coming. It’s essential that Bay Area residents and government officials take precautions to lessen the potential for disaster.

—The Editorial Board, Bay Area News Group

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