A string of earthquakes from Italy to Pakistan has killed 48 people recently, but seismologists say they are unconnected. 26 children died in southern Italy when their school collapsed, and there have been major quakes in Indonesia, Pakistan, the U.S. and Japan. "The (recent) quakes happened along different tectonic plates, therefore they cannot be related," according to Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency.
Seismologists do say that one quake can cause others to take place nearby?the Alaska quake followed one in the same region on October 23rd. "We can sometimes see increases in seismicity around larger earthquakes, but we can't say that will increase seismicity in other parts of the globe," says Paul Whitmore, of the West Coast & Alaska Tsunami Warning Center. The Alaska quake was felt 3,000 miles away, as lakes rippled and water sloshed out of pools in New Orleans.
There are about 1,000 quakes a year, two or three a day, of between 5.0 and 5.9 on the Richter scale. And medium-sized quakes can kill: In Pakistan, 17 people died from quakes measuring 5.6. The Italian quake was the worst in Italy since 1997, although it only measured 5.4. Two people died and 5,300 were made homeless in a 7.5-7.7 quake near Indonesia's island of Sumatra. The quakes in Alaska and Japan caused no fatalities, even though the one in Alaska measured 7.9, because it occurred in a sparsely populated area. When quakes take place near coastlines, it?s often the resulting giant waves that cause the death toll, not the earthquakes themselves.
As cities become more crowded, quakes become more dangerous. "The increase in population makes us more vulnerable," says Hilmar Bungum, of the Norwegian NORSAR seismic institute. The quake that killed the most people took place in 1976 in Tangshan, China. It killed about 240,000 people. In 1960, about 12,500 people died in Agadir, Morocco, in a quake measuring just 5.9, after their homes collapsed due to poor construction.
In Japan, where there are frequent earthquakes, researchers from Azabu University are trying to predict them by paying attention to behavior of nearby animals. The cat running around the house, the dog obsessively digging a hole, your pet bird screeching, a horse that refuses to eat?these may all be signs that a quake is on the way.
The idea comes from a study by researchers and veterinarians following the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. They discovered that 20% of domestic dogs and cats in the disaster areas behaved abnormally before the quake.
The team hopes to get warnings about big earthquakes that are expected to occur in the regions of Tokai and Tonankai. They plan to have roving agents, mostly pet owners who live in the region, who all carry cell phones that can send video files. When they see animals acting in bizarre ways, they will send the images to a central server. If enough information is received by the computers at the university's research lab when a major earthquake is due, the team will release a warning to the public on TV.
Only a few earthquakes have been successfully predicted. One of these was a quake in the ocean off China's Liaoning province in February, 1975. Before warning the public, authorities analyzed reports on abnormal behavior by more than 30 different types of animals, in addition to seismic data. Some of the strange behavior included snakes surfacing from hibernation and horses refusing to eat.
Can astrologers predict when earthquakes will happen? Find out how a modern astrologer works from ?Signs of the Times? by Ray Grasse, click here.
For a map of recent quakes,click here.
For more information,click here and here.
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