According to a report released on Wednesday, Bay Area residents in San Francisco are apparently doomed because of a fault line that is deemed to be a "tectonic time bomb" capable of generating an earthquake that could potentially claim hundreds of lives.
A theoretical magnitude 7.0 earthquake on Hayward Fault located near Oakland is being called the "HayWired Scenario" by a report from the U.S. Geological Survey. The lethal quake could kill 800 people and injure 18,000 if it occurs. Also, nearly 25,000 trapped people would have to be rescued from collapsed buildings and stalled elevators.
If the epicenter of the 7.0 earthquake was beneath Oakland, the analysis said that numerous East Bay cities would be hit by ‘violent ground shaking’. Some places could witness the ground opening up as much as 6 feet on opposite sides of the fault shift.
The USGS warns that the Hayward ‘is among the most active and dangerous in the United States’, although the San Andreas fault is better known. The Hayward fault has produced major prehistoric earthquakes every 100-220 years. According to the USGS, the 12 most recent major quakes along the line occurred at intervals of 150 years with little variation.
Experts say that another destructive event could take place at any time, owing to the fault line's active history.
“This fault is what we sort of call a tectonic time bomb,” USGS earthquake geologist emeritus David Schwartz told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s just waiting to go off.
The Hayward fault is dangerous because it runs through "one of the most urbanized" areas of the United States, according to researchers. Geological data says the fault line stretches from Richmond and Berkeley up north, through Oakland and until Fremont in the south, all along the East Bay.
In the 'HayWired earthquake scenario,’ a tremor was simulated with an epicenter in Oakland and "scheduled" to take place at 4:18 p.m. on April 18. The USGS found that during the simulation, the disaster would cause "400 fires and could destroy up to 50,000 houses."
Authorities further claimed that over half a million people would be displaced is the quake occurred in reality. The property damage would hit more than $82 billion, the experts say, destroying about 77,000 -152,000 households and displacing roughly 411,000 people.
The report further stated that East Bay residents could have to go without water supply from six weeks to maybe even six months. Also, electricity could be out for over a month in some areas.
Professor of structural engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, Jack Moehle, said, during a conversation with KTVU, that the study shows that residents need to prepare for the "big one." "Preparedness for the inevitable earthquake is really important and that preparedness comes first at home and the workplace,” he said. “But preparedness also occurs in how we build our buildings."
The study was released a day before the 112th anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 that struck along the San Andreas Fault. The tremors had claimed lives of 3,000 residents.
The state of California is precariously positioned along the volatile "Ring of Fire" seismic fault system. According to the USGS, over 50 percent of the world's active volcanoes are located directly above the ring.
Earthquakes have a higher probability of happening when oceanic plates scrape against lighter continental plates underneath each other. When these oceanic plates subside or collide in the seabed, it can trigger tsunamis which can lead to widespread destruction.
Having said that, researchers say that proper preparation could reduce these projected figures drastically.
The use of rescue tactics such as the ‘Drop, Cover, and Hold On’ as well as early warning systems such as the ShakeAlert, could prevent as many as 1,500 injuries, the USGS claims.
Ryan Arba, from the Earthquake and Tsunami Program within the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said: "The HayWired report provides a thorough, comprehensive analysis of the potential impact of a large-scale earthquake in the Bay Area."
"The State of California and its local partners have been preparing for decades; however, there is always more that we can do."