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San Francisco said unprepared for the 'Big One'

Written by: Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, Apr 14: San Francisco-area households are woefully unprepared for the ''Big One,'' the catastrophic earthquake expected to strike the region one day, according to an American Red Cross survey released.

Only 6 percent of residents of the region, which suffered a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in October 1989 and is laced with major faults, have a disaster plan, a kit with basic items and some training to cope with catastrophe, according to the survey released yesterday.

The finding comes as the region prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary next week of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which killed about 3,000 people and ranks as one of the worst natural disasters in US history.

The American Red Cross is using the anniversary to launch a campaign to urge individuals and households to prepare for natural disasters because, as was the case with Hurricane Katrina last year, government relief agencies are expected to be overwhelmed initially.

''Government is not going to be there in the first 24 hours,'' Jerry Brown, a former California governor now mayor of Oakland, said at a Red Cross event rolling out the initiative.

The relief group aims to secure commitments by a million San Francisco area residents to have plans, kits and training in the event of a regional emergency.

Damage, displacement and death from the ''Big One'' could dwarf the suffering in 1906, Mary Lou Zoback, regional coordinator for the US Geological Survey, told Reuters.

If the San Andreas Fault running through much of California and off its coast were to rupture violently, 10 million people would be affected, Zoback noted.

Certain areas lightly populated in 1906 but now heavily urbanized would be hit especially hard.

''It's becoming clear from our modeling that there are certain hot spots that will shake longer and harder,'' Zoback said.

''Silicon Valley is one of those hot spots.'' Seismologists estimate the 1906 earthquake at about a magnitude 7.8. The US Geological Survey estimates a 62 per cent probability of a magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquake striking the San Francisco area before 2032.

Risk-modeler AIR Worldwide Corp estimates the value of homes and commercial property in the ''damage footprint'' of the 1906 earthquake at more than 1.6 trillion dollars. If an earthquake rivaling the 1906 temblor strikes, property losses across the region would top 300 billion dollars, according to AIR.


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