Northridge, Los Angeles (1994) as an example of MEDC dealing with Seismicity

Northridge – Los Angeles 1994

Location and Nature of the of the seismic hazard:

  • San Andreas Fault – A transform boundary where the North American and Pacific Plates meet.
  • Since 1933 there have been 5 earthquakes above Richter scale 5.8. The Northridge earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale. The fault line that the Earthquake came from had previously never had a recorded eruption (this was called the Northridge Thrust).
  • The earthquake occurred at 4.30 AM meaning that many of the injuries were people who were sleeping at the time.


Effects (Social, Economic, Environmental, Political):

  • 57 Deaths and 1500 people seriously injured. 10,000 people received some form of injury compare the nature with this).
  • 12500 buildings were moderately to seriously destroyed
  • Damage to roads occurred up to 32 km from the epicentre.
  • 11000 landslides triggered
  • More than 20,000 people made immediately homeless.
  • 11 hospitals structurally damaged
  • 600 aftershocks (magnitude 5.6 aftershock felt 11 hours after the event).
  • After several days 9000 premises did not have electricity, 20,000 had no gas supply and 48,500 had little or no water supply.
  • Estimated cost of damage exceeded $30bn, other sources suggest $20bn property damage with $29bn economic losses from businesses closing.
  • 700,000 applications for state assistance (Compare)


Relief (Short-term management):

  • Red Cross established emergency food and shelter in nearby schools within hours. (Compare: these structures collapsed in Sichuan)
  • Venues such as the Dodger stadium also distributed food.
  • Almost all schools reopened within a week of quake.
  • The electricity distribution network set about restoring electricity straightaway. Meaning some homes regained supplies within hours.
  • Clear up began immediately with $14bn investment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).


Reconstruction (Longer term rebuilding):

  • 80,000 new housing properties built.
  • Home owners were compensated by government and insurance companies (Compare: Chinese Government unlikely to be able to do this in Sichuan)
  • LA recovery and reconstruction plan was written in light of lessons learned from the 1994 quake.
  • Stricter building codes introduced
  • Technological Advance has led to methods of finding vulnerable faults through CT Scanning. These improvements also mean that the magnitude of an earthquake can be electronically calculated in 2 minutes compared to the previous 45 minutes. Shake maps can also easily be created to show the areas of significant damage.