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May 17, 2005


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I doubt things will work out.

It's already 2005 and the last earthquake over 7 was in 1977. And since they come every 30 years or so (with 6 degrees on Richter scale coming every 10 years or so), there's really not much time left until the next big one.

You only need to look at the recent floods in Banat to figure out the scenario for an earthquake. It'll be a massive disaster, folks will be uninsurred and the government will be in a state of analysis paralysis. As always in Romania.

And folks shouldn't solely blame the government for an eventual disaster. The responsability is mutual.

Since I live in Constanta I have the opportunity of feeling, although with less intensity, the big Turkish earthquakes as well. The old city here, in the peninsula (or what's left of it) will fully collapse in case of a similar earthquake to the one in 1977.

Great blog and thanks for sharing your thoughts on Romania,

Bernard Guerrero

"It's already 2005 and the last earthquake over 7 was in 1977. And since they come every 30 years or so (with 6 degrees on Richter scale coming every 10 years or so), there's really not much time left until the next big one."

You do realize that things don't actually work that way, right? The "30 years or so" is a probabilistic statement, not a timetable. You're making the equivalent of a guess that the next coin-toss will be heads because you happen to have come up with three tails in a row and the coin is "due".

The statement is meaningful in terms of calculating expected losses over a given period in actuarial terms and for stochastic simulations, but makes no temporal predictions. Probably based on a Poisson distribution. And even time-dependent and stress-migration models are highly probabilistic in nature, particularly if the area in question is not a single-fault system. (Which category I believe Vracea falls into.)


I've been meaning to blog about the Mrmureanu report for a while now. It's not real comforting. Much of the area is prone to soil liquefication, and I have doubts about the quality of Ceaucescu-era concrete, especially in the high-rises built after the earthquake of 1977.

The Vrancea zone is geologically interesting. The quakes occur in a vertical column right under the bend of the Carpathians, from 70 to 200 km below the surface, about 3000 square km in cross-section. What seems to be happening is that a last chunk of a subducting slab is about to sink into the mantle.

The energy released does pass through a complex fault system. The empirical relation is roughly:

number of earthquakes per year of a given magnitude or higher = 12600 / (6 ^ Richter magnitude)

or log_10 (N) = 4.1 - 0.78 * magnitude, take your pick.

So there's about a 25% in any given year of a Richter 6 earthquake or greater, a 4% chance for a Richter 7 earthquake or greater, and a one in 130 chance for a Richter 8 or greater.

The last earthquake to approach Richter 8 was the 1940 earthquake, although Bucharest weathered it better than the 1977 one.



Maybe the next big one will come soon, maybe not. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with being concerned that you are not prepared yet. I must admit that I don't really know how Cluj (where I live) would last through an earthquake, maybe it's not so bad. Maybe it is. But it's never wrong to make sure it is.


I think this about sums is up right -- you don't know when it's going to happen but you know that it's going to happen sometime. Best to be prepared, eh?
Nothing wrong in having a flashlight ready, some water tucked away, some cans stored, a first aid kit at hand, passports close. We don't have a go back sitting by the bag door (we don't have a back door) but we have everything important in one place, just in case. I live by Murphy's law: be prepared and it won't be necessary. I hope it works (but Murphy's law doesn't really work in reverse, so there's that). :-)

Those apartment buildings need to be reinforced. Better yet, they need to be replaced. I'll be dead before that happens, though.

serial catowner

Well, if you have ever lived through a big quake, I probably don't need to tell you about making your house quake-proof.

When I remodel a house, I use plywood where most people would use plasterboard, and I fasten it with screws and glue. Totally insane, of course, until the ground starts shaking....

Is there anything that seems longer than waiting for the quake to end?

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