A major earthquake (7.2-magnitude) hit the central Philippines this morning. The death toll is approaching 100, as churches and other buildings, including a hospital, collapsed. Associate Professor Andrew Newman studies earthquakes, volcanoes and their impacts on society.
The large and destructive earthquake that rocked the Philippines last night was the result of ongoing tectonic collision between Philippine sea plate and the small Sunda plate, which makes up a majority of the archipelago nation. Because of very rapid and rather complex tectonics, such large earthquakes are very common. In fact, during the last three decades, about one magnitude 7 has hit the region every year, with the largest being a magnitude 8.0 in 1976. Thus, while such earthquakes are commonplace there, the local vulnerability is wildly variable and dependent on local building codes, geologic structure and proximity to earthquakes.
At Georgia Tech, we develop codes to evaluate the radiated earthquake energy for earthquake and tsunami hazard evaluation. Within 10 minutes of the earthquake's initiation, the automated system reported the earthquake's radiated energy and duration, finding it consistent with most earthquakes, and less likely to produce a devastating tsunami.
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