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Twist The Bridge, Bend The Rail, Mind Your Head

September 4, 2010

A footbridge in Christchurch NZ after yesterday’s earthquake. (Sources embedded in all images.)

Synopsis of the photos below: during an earthquake, do not be on the sidewalk near buildings made of brick or with any sort of facade.

As noted in the comments below — if you are inside, STAY INSIDE.

IMPORTANT AND SERIOUS UPDATE — taking off my smartass hat for a moment, take a look at the comment thread.  The question remains what to do if you are outside in a quake, around downtown and glass.  SF NERT trained people say: “If Downtown, stay inside or get inside as fast as you can. If the big one hits, there will be *several feet* of broken glass in the street from the shattered windows of tall buildings.”

Also, definitely avoid footbridges:

As for brick footbridges — though I have yet to see any pictures, I think that goes without saying.

Many more pictures including broken wine bottles, cracked pavement and bricks, along with bendy roads and skateboards, and people walking over bricks.

Some pictures of the new fault line:

(While New Zealand is best known for its sheep, do note this cow specially trained in geologic field work.)

We’re all familiar with the photos of bent rails from 1906 — case in point, 20th and Valencia — but I think the photo below remind us why BART likes to slow down after earthquakes.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2010 12:34 pm

    Geology cow, I commend your quick response to measuring displacement!

    A note about brick buildings, though: if you’re already outside, yes, it’s good to run away from things with bricks. But if you’re inside, running out is one of the worst things you can do. Most buildings won’t outright collapse structurally, but bricks certainly do go flying from ledges and facades and walls (like in those photos). Running outside puts you in far more danger of getting hit by a flying brick. If you stay inside and get under something sturdy, the odds of something landing on you are much smaller. The only deaths in the 2003 San Simeon earthquake were some people who ran outside and got hit by bricks.

    • September 5, 2010 12:45 pm

      Agreed. If inside, stay inside.

      But serious question — if you’re outside, should you run inside, or run to the center of the road?

    • September 5, 2010 12:51 pm

      I’m thinking downtown and glass, to be specific. That scares the crap out of me.

    • September 5, 2010 12:56 pm

      That’s actually a tough one, and it may be contingent upon how hard the ground is actually shaking. If it’s too hard to effectively walk/run, then you’re really in trouble.

      My gut thought would be to see if there’s something outside you can get under, like a bench. If there’s no such thing, but there’s an open space a little further away from buildings, I’d go for the open space. The middle of a road isn’t a great idea, since there are potential brick-flinging buildings on either side of it, but it’s still going to be better than heading back toward any structures, since most stuff is going to fall closer to its source.

  2. September 5, 2010 1:00 pm

    Oog, yeah, glass is a scary thing. I would get away from the glass, since there’s no real way (that I know of – I’m not an engineer!) to reenforce it. Newer masonry buildings have to be reenforced, and the building codes tend to get updated after big quakes, too.

    Since the lower stories of buildings tend to have big glass windows, that says, to me, to not run toward them.

    (…augh, glass.)

  3. pol permalink
    September 5, 2010 1:10 pm

    At the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team training (NERT) training I attended, I learned one very helpful thing: If Downtown, stay inside or get inside as fast as you can. If the big one hits, there will be *several feet* of broken glass in the street from the shattered windows of tall buildings. A bench isn’t going to help you.

    • September 5, 2010 1:20 pm

      Yes, this!
      Trust the NERT training over my conjecture-y handwaviness about glass any day!

      (I should really go to one of those training things. I can do awareness/outreach stuff on the science side, but that’s only part of it.)

    • September 5, 2010 1:42 pm

      Thank you, updated article. If inside, stay inside. If outside downtown, get inside.

      But if outside of brick buildings (I’m specifically thinking Valencia)??? I still think the middle of the street, given how poorly the awnings and facades did. I’ll take a broken leg over head trauma.

  4. September 7, 2010 11:22 am

    I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that NOBODY was killed. Zero fatalities. Score one for building codes.

    I heard somewhere that the old get-in-a-doorway advice is now disfavored. Does anyone know about that?

    • friscolex permalink
      September 7, 2010 12:17 pm

      I also heard that the doorway was not the refuge of choice, but haven’t been in a school earthquake drill in a while, so who knows where my info comes from.

      My boyfriend (a structural engineer; what does he know?) said door frames just ain’t what they used to be. These folks seem to say “get under something strong”: Of course in ’89 I just was fascinated by the wavy hallways and just stood there…

      Hmm, I’m reminded to upgrade my earthquake kit from chili and Clif Bars in the garage…

  5. September 7, 2010 12:58 pm

    A rather amazing and frankly sobering animated timeline of the quake and the aftershocks here:

  6. September 7, 2010 12:59 pm

    Christ, they literally just had another 5.8 aftershock.

  7. rocky'sdad permalink
    September 8, 2010 11:53 am

    you mean Christchurch, they did.:)

  8. Brian permalink
    September 19, 2010 8:21 pm

    What sort of ground movement bent the rails tracks in the photo above?

    • September 19, 2010 8:43 pm

      I’ve been wondering about that myself. I’m neither a geologist nor a rolling stock-ologist, but from the marks in the gravel it sure looks like the ties and rails slid side to side.

  9. September 19, 2010 9:09 pm

    Actually, I was just guessing that aftershock as a 5.8 because it shook my house so violently. It turned out to be two 5.1’s in succession :-( We left town for 5 days after that

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