Jeffrey Russell
                                ? Credits

                                Earthquakes

                                  Overview

                                  Earthquakes can strike suddenly and without warning. An earthquake is a violent and abrupt shaking of the ground, caused by movement between tectonic plates along a fault line in the earth’s crust. Earthquakes can result in the ground shaking, soil liquefaction, landslides, fissures, avalanches, fires and tsunamis. The extent of destruction and harm caused by an earthquake depends on:

                                  • magnitude
                                  • intensity and duration
                                  • the local geology
                                  • the time of day that it occurs
                                  • building and industrial plant design and materials
                                  • the risk-management measures put in place.

                                  Between 1998-2017, earthquakes caused nearly 750 000 deaths globally, more than half of all deaths related to natural disasters. More than 125 million people were affected by earthquakes during this time period, meaning they were injured, made homeless, displaced or evacuated during the emergency phase of the disaster.

                                  Impact

                                  Health threats due to earthquakes can vary according the magnitude of the earthquake, the nature of the built environment (such as poor housing or urban slums), and the secondary effects of the earthquake, like tsunamis or landslides. Earthquakes can have immediate and long-term impacts on health.

                                  Immediate health impacts include:

                                  • trauma-related deaths and injuries from building collapse;
                                  • trauma-related deaths and injuries from the secondary effects of the earthquake, like drowning from tsunamis or burns from fires.

                                  Medium-term health impacts include:

                                  • secondary infection of untreated wounds;
                                  • increased morbidity and risk of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth due to interrupted obstetric and neonatal services;
                                  • potential risk of communicable diseases, particularly in areas affected by overcrowding;
                                  • increased morbidity and risk of complications of chronic diseases due to interruption of treatment;
                                  • increased psychosocial needs;
                                  • potential environmental contamination by chemical/radiological agents following destruction of industrial infrastructure.

                                  Earthquakes can also damage health facilities and transportation, which can disrupt service delivery and access to care. Health workers may not be able to reach health facilities that are still functional and medical supplies may be lost.

                                  WHO Response

                                  As the health cluster lead for global emergencies, WHO works with partners to mitigate, prepare and respond to earthquakes worldwide. This includes:

                                  • strengthening health emergency risk management systems
                                  • limiting the risk of exposure to earthquakes by improving the quality of the built environment, with better land-use control, including regulating building
                                  • ensuring that health facilities are resilient to hazards, and that they are able to remain functional and able to respond to increased and changed health needs after earthquakes, with staff trained appropriately
                                  • mobilizing medical response teams, including establishing temporary health structures and field hospitals, as well as emergency medical kits
                                  • investing in community preparedness, as local resident are often the first responders. 

                                  Nearly 750 000

                                  deaths

                                  Earthquakes caused nearly 750 000 deaths globally from 1998-2017.

                                  Find out more

                                  125 million

                                  people

                                  More than 125 million people were affected by earthquakes from 1998-2017.

                                  Find out more

                                  WHO videos on Nepal earthquake

                                  WHO district support office in Gorkha to support the government of Nepal after 2015 earthquakes

                                  WHO: The response to the 2015 Nepal earthquakes: the value of preparedness

                                  WHO’s response to immediate health needs

                                  Nepal - WHO visits field hospital providing relief to disaster-struck community

                                  Assessing health needs in an earthquake-devastated Nepalese village

                                  Publications

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                                  Preparedness for cyclones, tropical storms, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes during the COVID-19 pandemic

                                  The WHO health advisory provides guidance to countries on adapting all existing preparedness and response plans and procedures for natural hazards such...

                                  Chemical releases associated with earthquakes

                                  This leaflet provides brief information about Natech and other chemical releases caused directly or indirectly by earthquakes. It is an extract from...

                                  Ten years after the tsunami of 2004: Impact action change future

                                  On 26 December 2004, two extremely rare events occurred close to the southwestern shores of northern Indonesia. The first was a massive earthquake measuring...

                                  Health risk assessment from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami, based on a preliminary dose estimation

                                  The earthquake and tsunami in Japan on 11 March 2011 led to releases of radioactive material into the environment from the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s...