What Could a 6.5 Magnitude Earthquake do to Busan?

As aftershocks from the Kyushu earthquake have hit Busan for three consecutive days, many people are starting to question how safe Busan is if a major earthquake hit the city.

Experts predict that a 6.5 magnitude earthquake is the strongest possible earthquake that could hit the city due to its geographical structure. And Busan, which does have active fault zones in the Dongnae, Ilgwang, Yangsan and Ulsan regions, is susceptible to a possible powerful earthquake.

So, what could happen in such a scenario?

In a National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) simulation, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake would cause approximately 36,000 initial injuries and deaths and cause structural damage to nearly 54% of Busan’s 90,000 buildings according to Kim Chang-soo, an associate professor of architecture at China’s Shandong University in a recent article in the Busan Ilbo.

And that’s before any secondary damage which would be caused by fires or aftershocks — or a possible tsunami.

In a study released yesterday, only 26% of buildings in Busan are considered earthquake resistant — lower than the national level of only 34% — leading to the increased fear of what damage a major earthquake could do.

Buildings taller than three stories were required by law to be built earthquake resistant since 2005, after changing the 1988 law which required all buildings taller than six stories to be designed to withstand earthquakes — however, most builders ignored the guidelines.

In addition, according to the Joongang Ilbo, there is no national-level alarm system in the country for earthquakes.

While Busan may have just received some small aftershocks this week, experts do agree that the city and the country, are not prepared in case a major quake does hit the city in the future.

What really could happen though — as with any natural disaster — is anyone’s guess. But with the increasing number of earthquakes happening in the country, early damage prevention should become the utmost of priorities before it’s too late.


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