Possible San Francisco Earthquake Could Kill Hundreds, Expert Says

San Francisco
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Roughly seven million people in the San Francisco Bay Area in California sit on or near what experts call a “tectonic time bomb,” according to the results of a US Geological Survey study called the HayWired scenario.

The Daily Mail reports the Hayward Fault, a 52-mile faultline that runs through the area, produces major geologic events roughly every 150 years. The last major quake along the fault, a magnitude 6.8, occurred in 1868 — 150 years ago.

While Californians most fear the San Andreas Fault, which was responsible for San Francisco’s devastating 1906 earthquake, experts believe the Bay Area has more to worry about from the Hayward Fault, according to an LA Times report. With seven million people living in the region, two million of those reside on the fault, and the fallout from a 7.0 magnitude earthquake could create terrible devastation and loss of life.

The Hayward Fault goes from the San Pablo Bay through Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward, Fremont, and Milpitas. The USGS study predicts the seismic event could cost an estimated $82 billion in immediate property damage and business loss and another $30 billion in fire damage. The area’s 1989 earthquake cost around $10 billion in damage.

USGS earthquake geologist emeritus David Schwartz said, “This fault is what we sort of call a tectonic time bomb. It’s just waiting to go off.”

The USGS report focused on a hypothetical 7.0 magnitude tremblor, and it came to some terrifying conclusions. The study predicted that 800 people could die and 18,000 could be injured.

Adding to those massive numbers, nearly 25,000 people could find themselves trapped as buildings collapsed and over 400 fires sparked in the affected zone. Those 400 fires would ignite, burning as many as 52,000 single-family homes. Plus, firefighters would find themselves without the water to put out the blazes because old pipes might shatter underground. Ben Margot / AP Images

While officials mitigated risks somewhat by doing things like abandoning old city halls in Hayward and Fremont that lie directly on the fault and moving part of the seating in Memorial Stadium at UC Berkeley, most likely, the changes aren’t enough to prevent absolute destruction should the fault produce another event in the near future.

If such a quake strikes, as many as 400,000 residents may find themselves displaced from their homes needing immediate shelter in an area with no shelter to be found.

This HayWired scenario sounds like the stuff of Hollywood action films, but unfortunately, it may become real life if this report’s predictions prove correct.