The power of building codes: why fewer died in Chile’s earthquake than in Haiti’s

According to an article on “Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010 — the deadliest year in more than a generation. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year [2010] than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined”.
This is an alarming statement!

Image copyright: BBC

Even with the most sophisticated weather tracking tools, it is not always possible to predict when a natural disaster will occur.  Although we can track how a cyclone develops, it is very difficult to tract the exact path it will take and the severity with which it might hit when it reaches land.  However, there is one thing we can do: prepare and adapt.  The way we design and build our buildings can save lives. This is the reason why we build reinforced concrete structures in Mauritius, and rightly so, because we are prone to cyclonic conditions.

When it comes to earthquakes, it is estimated that 80% of deaths that occur during an earthquake is attributed to the collapse of buildings. As an example, in Haiti, where most of the population lived in poorly built structures, about 220,000 people were killed.  In contrast, the earthquake in Chile, which was about 500 times stronger than that of Haiti, caused less than 1,000 deaths.  One of the reasons for this is better building codes and better construction.

An interesting article below from BBC, talks about a system that helps buildings stay up, called the “strong columns weak beams” system, and helped prevent Chile’s buildings from collapsing.

Link to article: