Saturday, 21 May 2011

Could an earthquake really end the world Saturday?

By Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

According to Harold Camping, the Oakland minister who's predicting the end of the world Saturday, a great earthquake will first shake New Zealand, triggering an apocalypse that rolls relentlessly toward the USA, reaching San Francisco at around 6 p.m. on Saturday.

OK, so, like, should we worry? Fortunately, earthquake expert John Vidale of the University of Washington says we'll be fine: "No earthquake would end civilization."


He says that about the biggest earthquake considered plausible is one that would be twice the size of the massive Chile earthquake in 1960, which the U.S. Geological Survey says was the strongest of the 20th century. It was registered as a magnitude 9.5 and killed more than 1,600 people in Chile.

Such a massive earthquake – which Vidale says would be measured as a magnitude 10 – would wreak havoc on an entire coast, perhaps scouring some coastlines along the same ocean.

Vidale says the earthquake would have to break a subduction zone -- the place where two tectonic plates come together -- with the likeliest worst-case locations being off the coast of Japan or the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

"The top killers, although the magnitude would be less, would be in China, Iraq, or other less developed countries," he adds.

As for Camping, he told the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week that the earthquake "will continue across the Earth at such a rate, every Richter scale in the world and every news organization in the world will have no doubt - Judgment Day is here."

He says the quake will reach San Francisco around 6 p.m. PDT Saturday. The saved Christian souls will ascend to heaven, including those dead and buried, while all others will remain as the Earth falls into fiery chaos.