What if a severe quake struck in the U.S? – The death toll from the recent 7.9 earthquake in China my eventually reach half a million, many of them children. Seismologists say that an earthquake is overdue in the Los Angeles area?could it be that bad here?

The recent China quake was relatively shallow, which cause the effects to be felt over a wide area. Also, despite the fact that China DOES have building codes in order to withstand earthquakes, many of the buildings that collapsed were not built up to code.

In LiveScience.com, Jeanna Bryner quotes civil engineer Reginald DesRoches as saying, “You certainly wouldn’t see the extent of damage you see here. I’m pretty confident about that. You just wouldn’t see the level of damage, because they do really enforce the regulations, particularly in California.” The problem comes when brick or concrete block buildings are built without steel reinforcements.

Bryner quotes civil engineer Swaminathan Krishnan as saying, “Now we can confidently say there are no un-reinforced masonry buildings in southern California.” But we DO have some problem buildings here in the US, such as Ironically, these are mostly the “big box” retail stores, such as Wal-Mart and Target, which mostly sell items that are manufactured in China. Krishnan says, “I hate to say it’s similar to the Chinese situation, but it could be; we don’t know exactly how bad these buildings are [but] the kind of collapses you saw in China, we might see here.”

Meanwhile, back in China, the massive earthquake may have dealt a huge blow to China’s plans for a vast network of hydro-electric power dams, leading to more reliance on coal, more pollution and more competition for scarce global energy resources. Researcher Andrew Mertha says, “There has been growing grassroots opposition in China to the governments heavy-handed push for ever-larger hydropower projects, and the dangers now posed by earthquake-damaged dams will only strengthen citizen opposition to these projects.”

The earthquake destroyed a power plant and left large cracks in Zipingpu dam on the Min river just six miles upstream from Dujiangyan. “The government is saying that the dam is in no danger of failing, but any sort of breach could easily be catastrophic,” says Mertha. “More than a half million people live just downstream of the dam.”

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