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Disasters. 1996 Sep;20(3):231-47.

The health effects of earthquakes in the mid-1990s.

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Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 01003-5820, USA.


This paper gives an overview of the global pattern of casualties in earthquakes which occurred during the 30-month period from 1 September 1993 to 29 February 1996. It also describes some of the behavioural and logistical regularities associated with mortality and morbidity in these events. Of 83 earthquakes studied, there were casualties in 49. Lethal earthquakes occurred in rapid succession in Indonesia, China, Colombia and Iran. In the events studied, a disproportionate number of deaths and injuries occurred during the first six hours of the day and in earthquakes with magnitudes between 6.5 and 7.4. Ratios of death to injury varied markedly (though with some averages close to 1:3), as did the nature and causes of mortality and morbidity and the proportion of serious to slight injuries. As expected on the basis of previous knowledge, few problems were caused by post-earthquake illness and disease. Also, as expected, building collapse was the principal source of casualties: tsunamis, landslides, debris flows and bridge collapses were the main secondary causes. In addition, new findings are presented on the temporal sequence of casualty estimates after seismic disaster. In synthesis, though mortality in earthquakes may have been low in relation to long-term averages, the interval of time studied was probably typical of other periods in which seismic catastrophes were relatively limited in scope.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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