Earthquake Vulnerability in the Middle East
Martin Degg and Jacqueline Homan
Parts of the Middle East have a long history of earthquake activity. This is providing scientists and engineers with a relatively comprehensive picture of the types, distribution and frequency of seismic hazard to be expected across the area, and of the vulnerability of structures to these hazards. Such levels of understanding are increasingly difficult to reconcile with the high levels of human vulnerability (to earthquakes) that exist, as manifest in the costly earthquake disasters that have afflicted the region during the last 15 years; e.g. the December 2003 Bam earthquake in South East Iran which killed more than 40,000 people. This article highlights, with reference to recent earthquake disasters in Turkey and Egypt, the fact that a root cause of much of this vulnerability is low levels of engagement of the general public in the hazard mitigation process, partly due to poor access to specialist knowledge. In the search for a more effective response to the earthquake threat, the need to reduce the ‘informational vulnerability’ of the populace through culturally-sensitive approaches to risk education and management is paramount. The article explores ways in which this might be achieved at a variety of societal levels. The overarching conclusion is that the extent of human vulnerability to earthquakes in the Middle East is now such that it can only effectively be addressed by engendering collective cultures (‘seismic cultures’) of prevention.
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Date: Spring 2005