Angelenos and others who live in earthquake zones occasionally need reminding that quakes can be pretty darn scary. A new study published Thursday in the Lancet should be eye-opening.
Dr. Susan A. Bartels of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Dr. Michael VanRooyen of Brigham and Women's Hospital, both in Boston, reviewed the medical literature on the health effects of earthquakes -- and described them as "devastating."
In the past 10 years, they wrote, earthquakes have caused more than 780,000 deaths -- almost 60% of disaster-related morality. More than a million earthquakes occur around the world each year, the equivalent of about 2 temblors per minute. Some of the world's largest and most populated metropolitan areas -- Tokyo, Mexico City, India's Mumbai, Shanghai, Los Angeles, even New York City -- are in seismic zones.
Unlike floods and hurricanes, which can cause a lot of deaths (mainly from drowning) but typically aren't associated with injuries that require ongoing medical or surgical care, earthquakes also inflict assorted traumas. They also wreck roads, hospitals and other infrastructure, derailing emergency services and creating "a large, unmet need for complex surgical and medical care," the co-authors wrote.