Earthquakes are one of nature’s greatest hazards to life and property. Throughout historic times,
they have caused the destruction of countless cities and villages around the world and inflicted
the death of thousands of people (see Appendix). In the last 30 years alone, thousands of people
were injured or lost their lives, and many more were left homeless, by earthquakes. The totally
unexpected and nearly instantaneous devastation they may cause produces a unique psychological
impact and a fear on modern societies that it is unsurpassed by any other natural hazard. This
devastation, however, is owed almost entirely to the effect of earthquakes on civil engineering structures and the ground that supports them. It is the collapse of bridges, buildings, dams, and other structures that, together with the indirect effects of these collapses, causes extensive damage and loss of life during earthquakes. In principle, therefore, with the effective application of scientific and engineering principles and techniques, societies can minimize, if not completely eliminate, earthquake catastrophes.
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