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Skip Navigation LinksHome : Earthquakes : Hazardous Earthquake Effects
EARTHQUAKES
Hazardous Earthquake Effects

Ground shaking, in itself, is not dangerous. However, the resulting damage to buildings and other structures and the risk of casualties from falling debris can make it extremely hazardous. Some of the earthquake effects that can be harmful to people are:

Collapsing buildings, walls, bridges, falling furniture or objects, shattering glass windows and mirrors. Debris from collapsing structures is one of the principal dangers during an earthquake since the impact of large, heavy objects can be fatal to human beings. Earthquakes sometimes cause glass windows and mirrors to shatter and this is also quite dangerous. Earthquake aftershocks can result in the complete collapse of buildings that were damaged during an earthquake.

Falling electricity lines. Earthquakes can cause electricity poles to fall and live wires to become exposed or to start fires.

Ruptured gas lines and spillage of flammable substances. Earthquake-generated fires can cause widespread destruction after a major earthquake. Escaping gas from broken gas lines and the toppling of containers with flammable substances (e.g. kerosene, household chemicals, etc.) present a significant threat of explosions and fires, which can cause death and destruction of property. Additionally, water pipes are sometimes ruptured during an earthquake and this compounds the problem of controlling such fires.  

Rock slides and/or landslides on mountains and hillsides. During an earthquake, large rocks and portions of earth high up in the hills can become dislopdged and rapidly roll or slide down into the valleys.
Floods caused by the collapse of dam walls. Earthquakes can cause dam walls to crack and eventually collapse, sending raging waters into surrounding areas and causing severe flooding.
Tsunamis. A tsunami is a large sea wave or series of waves that can be generated by an earthquake. Large tsunamis can completely devastate low-lying coastal areas.
Liquefaction. When sediments with a high water content are subjected to prolonged shaking, the pressure of the water held in pores in the sediment graudally increases eventually, the sediments lose all cohesive strength and begin to behave as if they were liquids. Building and other structures sink into the ground or overturn and buried tanks and other cavities rise to the surface. This is known as liquefaction. Liquefaction occurred during the earthquake of 1692 in Jamaica and was responsible for the destruction of the town of Port Royal. Over the past few decades, many parts of the Eastern Caribbean have become increasingly vulnerable to liquefaction because of the increased use of reclaimed land for urban development.