Quakes and More Quakes

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Even as Sichuan suffers from a 6.4 aftershock to the 7.9 May 12 quake, a 5.5 quake has killed eleven and injured over 4,000 in Colombia. Compared to the magnitude of the Chinese quake, the 5,000,000 homeless, and a death toll that may reach 80,000; or even compared to the aftershock, which destroyed another 270,000 homes; this Colombian quake may seem inconsequential. Yet the size of a quake is academic when the boulders rushing down a hillside are aimed at you. Some of the dead in yesterday's quake were swept from the highway pictured below by landslides. I took these photos in 1989, very near the epicenter of the new quake. The taxi I was riding from Bogota to Villavicencio was stopped while crews worked to clear a rock slide from the highway. That may not look like a major highway, but it carries all the traffic between the nation's hub and the eastern llanos.

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I had about two hours to study the topography. Farmers had tiny plots of cassava or corn, planted on hillsides that showed the scars of previous landslides. They built brick and cement houses with corrugated Eternit (a composite of asbestos and concrete) roofs to shed the torrents of rain that fell there.
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Even when the earth sits still, just the rain has the power to bring down great portions of these hillsides. It is hard to even imagine those mountains in a 5.5, or a 6.4, or a 7.9. To the rescue teams, the numbers make a difference, but to the people living downhill, it is all academic.

Posted by Brian at 10:36 PM  


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Văn Sát said...
August 10, 2016 at 6:44 AM  

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