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TV Reviews : Learning the Truth About 'Earthquakes'

May 21, 1994|ROBERT KOEHLER

Manhattanites who think that earthquakes are "that L.A. thing" will find no comfort in ABC's self-descriptive special, "Earthquakes: The Terrifying Truth." The Big One, it says, could hit under New York, Memphis, Seattle or many other large U.S. urban centers.

For Southern Californians, however, the only relief in watching what is often a relentless montage of actual and movie-made quake footage is the program's vivid explanation of Tokyo as the world's most dangerous city for shakers.

The local future seismic dangers shown here--the web of buried thrust faults underneath the L.A. basin, the stressed southern tip of the San Andreas Fault--are familiar stuff. But Tokyo's vulnerability to the Big One is truly shocking. The city's building density, its soft soil, its location on four--count 'em, four-tectonic plates, and an alleged illusion of preparedness (the annual "Disaster Day" appears to be more like a family outing than real preparation) make for a deadly combination.

Even worse is the prospect that the next great Tokyo quake could trigger a global economic battering, since assets to pay for damages would likely come from disinvestments overseas. The consequences could be enormous.

* "Earthquakes: The Terrifying Truth" airs at 8 tonight on ABC (Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42).

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