9 August 2017Insurance

Magnitude 6.5 earthquake strikes Sichuan Province in Southwest China

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck Jiuzhaigou County in northern Sichuan Province in southwestern China, catastrophe modelling firm AIR Worldwide said on Aug. 8.

This strong earthquake has caused some building damage, power outages, and disrupted communications networks. The scope of the damage may be difficult to ascertain, due to the communications networks being down.

This earthquake was 285 kilometers from Chengdu, the densely-populated capital of Sichuan Province. The Sichuan provincial government reports that some train services to Chengdu and other cities were suspended following the quake.

The August 8 earthquake had a depth of just 9 km, and shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage. It occurred in an area where two large active fault zones, the eastern Kunlun fault zone and the Longmenshang fault zone, meet at the eastern margin of the India-Eurasia collision zone. The epicenter is about 130 km northwest of the Longmengshan fault zone, which was the source of the M7.9 Wenchuan earthquake rupture in 2008. This region has experienced a dozen events of M6.0 or greater over the past century, with the most notable being the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake—China’s most deadly earthquake this century, killing nearly 90,000 people.

According to AIR, China’s insured building stock in urban areas is dominated by mid-rise confined masonry and mid- to high-rise reinforced concrete buildings, which, if constructed in compliance with the building code, are expected to perform adequately for moderate earthquakes. However, in smaller towns across China, the majority of the building stock is made up of older unreinforced masonry (URM) structures, which are highly vulnerable to ground motion.

The area affected by the earthquake is a mountainous region and precipitation-induced landslides are common therefore earthquake-induced landslide damage to infrastructure (roads, bridges, transmission lines, and pipelines) is expected.

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