Earthquake risk is great and growing for people in cities of developing countries. Since 1900, four of every five deaths caused by earthquakes have occurred in developing countries. In the year 1950, two of every three people living in earthquake-threatened cities lived in developing countries; by 2000, that number had increased to nine of every ten.
Little has been done to reduce the risk that these people confront. Most people living in cities of industrialized nations are aware of their earthquake risk; in developing countries, most people are not. Building codes are common in industrialized nations; in developing countries, they are not. When building codes do exist, they are often not enforced. Experts in earth science and earthquake engineering in developing countries are few in number, ill-equipped, and isolated.
Yet much can be done. Since 1900, industrialized countries have markedly improved their construction practices and emergency response capabilities. As a result, the average number of fatalities per fatal earthquake in those countries has been reduced by a factor of 10. Over the same period of time, the average number of fatalities per fatal earthquake in developing countries has remained unchanged.