Title: Outdated Brick Structures Pose Deadly Threats during Earthquakes
Subtitle: California Cities at Risk as Morocco Earthquake Highlights Similar Dangers
In a recent earthquake that rattled Morocco, the devastating aftermath brought attention to the catastrophic consequences of weak brick structures during seismic activity. The destruction witnessed in Moroccan cities like Marrakech serves as a stark reminder of the similar risks posed by old masonry buildings in California.
Unreinforced masonry buildings in California have long been regarded as death traps during major earthquakes. Early warnings were evident during the Santa Barbara and Long Beach earthquakes in the early 20th century. Although some cities in California have taken proactive measures to either demolish or reinforce older buildings, there are still areas that have yet to act, potentially raising the death toll in future earthquakes.
One of the key vulnerabilities of older brick buildings is their lack of ductility and reinforcement, rendering them susceptible to collapse during seismic incidents. The mortar that binds bricks together dissolves under the stress of seismic activity, causing the walls to crumble and potentially leading to the roof collapsing as well. Recent earthquakes have provided ample evidence of the danger posed by falling brick walls, which can cause fatalities among building occupants, pedestrians, and motorists.
The devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011 resulted in numerous deaths when old brick buildings collapsed. This further underscores the urgency for action to be taken to reinforce or demolish these vulnerable structures.
While some cities in California, such as Los Angeles, have implemented measures to strengthen or demolish old brick buildings, others have made little progress in addressing this imminent threat. Particularly at risk is the Inland Empire region, situated near three major faults, where many perilous buildings remain unretrofitted. The city of Ventura, California, for instance, has only enforced minimal retrofits for brick buildings, leaving the majority of these structures still at risk of collapse.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, old brick buildings and non-ductile concrete buildings are considered the two types posing the greatest risk to life safety during earthquakes. Property owners of vulnerable, older brick buildings face potential legal consequences for negligence, even if local government orders or deadlines have not been issued. Families of victims who died in these hazardous structures have been granted significant settlements in lawsuits, highlighting the legal responsibility of property owners to ensure the safety of their buildings.
As seismic activity remains an ever-present threat, it is vital for Californian cities to take urgent and comprehensive action to reinforce or demolish these outdated brick structures. Failure to do so not only endangers the lives of occupants but also exposes property owners to potentially severe legal ramifications. The lessons learned from the Morocco earthquake should serve as a stark reminder of the urgency to address this critical issue and protect the communities within these high-risk areas.
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