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A 6.5 earthquake in Seoul could cause 110,000 casualties, 'So what about Jeju?'
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승인 2011.03.14  16:25:01
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▲ Prognostic chart of how the earthquake of 6.5 magnitude in Seoul affects 16 other provinces.

As a combination of a severe 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami has devastated the north east coast of neighboring country Japan, a study has pointed out that Korea is also susceptible to similar damage should an earthquake occur and that Jeju should no longer be considered a safety zone.

A document from the National Emergency Management Agency, received by national Grand National Party member, Park Dae Hae, predicts up to 110,000 casualties should an earthquake of 6.5 magnitude take place in Seoul.

This scenario is based on the presumption that the epicenter of the quake is centred in the middle of Seoul and estimates that an earthquake in a metropolitan area of the capital will cause 7726 deaths and 107,524 injuries. The number of refugees will reach up to 104,011, says the report. In the aftermath of this imaginary event, tremors of about 2.0 magnitude will be felt in Jeju, which is 450km away from Seoul.

Further National Emergency Management Agency research said if a similar earthquake was to occur in Jecheon, Chungbu (where the population is low), up to 116 buildings will be destroyed with 1170 injured, including 25 deaths.

Jeju is not included in the epicenter scenario. However, considering the area and the population destiny of Jecheon is half that of Jeju, the island could be expected to have 5000 people injured if an earthquake of a similar 6.5 magnitude was to occur. Extrapolating from this there will be 100 deaths, 2000 injuries, and 2700 refugees.

Unlike Jecheon, which is located in the interior, many Jeju towns are formed around the shore, so citizens living in the lower lying areas will be more susceptible to severe damage from tsunamis.

In fact, the both the number and magnitude of earthquakes around Jeju’s shore are increasing.

▲ Areas expected to have buildings destroyed when an earthquake with magnitude of 6.5 takes place in Jecheon, Chungbuk.

According to the earthquake data of the National Weather Service, there were only 6 earthquakes in Jeju during the period from 1990 to 1999.

However, in 2009, there were 8 earthquakes, which exceeded the number of earthquakes for past 10 years. The year 2010 had 7 earthquakes and this year, 3 earthquakes were recorded in only the past 2 months.

Since 1990, earthquakes with a magnitude of over 3.0 occurred 11 times, and 9 of these took place after 2000. To give an idea of the strength, a magnitude of 3.0 is enough to make parked cars shake.

Many of Jeju buildings’ lack of resistance design is increasing the fear of earthquakes for citizens.

As Assemblywoman Lee Sun Hwa pointed out on last November 23rd during an inspection of the provincial assembly’s administration, the number of Jeju’s earthquake-resistant buildings is only one-third of the total.

For schools especially, out of 176 schools, only 23 schools are equipped with an earthquake-resistant design. This is about 9 percent of all Jeju’s school buildings.

According to current building codes, buildings having more than 1000㎡ area are required to be equipped with an earthquake-resistant design. Out of Jeju’s 166,411 buildings, this law is applied to 130,427 buildings, 78.3 percent of the total. However 9174 buildings were constructed before 1986, when the building codes had not been introduced and therefore do not need to have earthquake-resistant design.

“Recent earthquakes in Beakdu mountain and Jeju island show that Korea is not a earthquake safety zone anymore,” said Congressman Park Hae Won. “Emergent safety measures for public facilities in order to take action against earthquakes are needed.”

“In the long run, low-rise buildings should also be required to have earthquake-resistance design, just like U.S.A, Japan, and China do,” Park emphasized.

(Translation by Koh Yu Kyung)

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