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Scientists predict thousands will die from earthquake expected anytime on US West Coast

Published time: March 15, 2013 16:45
Edited time: March 17, 2013 08:27
Reuters/Miyako City Office

Reuters/Miyako City Office

Researchers say a massive earthquake and tsunami could soon strike the Northwest US coast, killing more than 10,000 people, flooding entire towns, and causing economic damages totaling $32 billion.

An alarming report published by the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission warns about the dire effects of the quake and claims that it is imminent and could strike anytime. The report, which was compiled by a group of more than 150 volunteer experts, was requested by the Oregon legislature in order to adequately prepare for the looming disaster.

The last high magnitude earthquake in the region occurred in the year 1700 in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The quake had a magnitude between 8.7 and 9.2, and geologists in 2010 predicted that there is a 37 percent change of another such quake occurring within 50 years. The new report claims that there is a 100 percent chance of a monster earthquake occurring in the region – but scientists don’t know when.

"This earthquake will hit us again," Kent Yu, an engineer and chairman of the commission, told lawmakers. "It's just a matter of how soon."

Jay Wilson, vice chairman of the commission that put together the report, told AP that “we’re well within the window for it to happen again.”

With no time frame for the predicted earthquake, Oregonians need to be constantly prepared for one. The report warns of death and devastation ranging from British Columbia to Northern California, the worst of which will strike Oregon.

"Oregonians as individuals are underprepared," Maree Wacker, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Oregon, told AP.

An earthquake, together with the resulting tsunami, could leave Oregonians without water, power, heat, telephone services, and in some cases, gasoline. After a deadly earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, lawmakers grew concerned that a similar disaster could occur in the US. The report says that geographically, Oregon and Japan are almost identical – but that Japan was far more prepared than Oregon would be if it faced the same fate.

The most recent report is not the first warning of an imminent high-magnitude quake. In 2012, researchers at Oregon State University published a study concluding that there is a 40 percent chance of a major earthquake in the Coos Bay, Ore., region during the next 50 years.

The Northwest US is long overdue for an earthquake, and it’s only a matter of time before the coast once again witnesses a quake with a magnitude higher than 8.0.

“By the year 2060, if we have not had an earthquake, we will have exceeded 85 percent of all the known intervals of earthquake recurrence in 10,000 years,” Jay Patton, co-author of the Oregon State University's research, said in a press release. “The interval between earthquakes ranges from a few decades to thousands of years. But we already have exceeded about three-fourths of them.”

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