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At the time of writing, 436 people have died following an earthquake in the Indonesian island of Lombok. A further 2,500 people have been hospitalised with serious injuries and over 270,000 people have been displaced.
Earthquakes are one of the deadliest natural disasters, accounting for just 7.5% of such events between 1994 and 2013 but causing 37% of deaths. And, as with all natural disasters, it isn't the countries that suffer the most earthquakes that see the biggest losses. Instead, the number of people who die in an earthquake is related to how developed the country is.
Lombok - Nepal - Deaths - Collapse - Rickety
In Lombok, as in Nepal in 2015, many deaths were caused by the widespread collapse of local rickety houses incapable of withstanding the numerous aftershocks. More generally, low quality buildings and inadequate town planning are the two main reasons why seismic events are more destructive in developing countries.
In response to this issue, my colleagues and I are working on a way to create cheap building foundations that are better at absorbing seismic energy and so can prevent structures from collapsing during an earthquake. And the key ingredient of these foundations is rubber from scrap tyres, which are otherwise very difficult to safely dispose of and are largely sent to landfill or burnt, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and toxic gases containing heavy metals.
Attempts - Buildings - Earthquakes - Foundations - Results
Previous attempts to protect buildings from earthquakes by altering their foundations have shown promising results. For example, a recently developed underground vibrating barrier can reduce between 40% and 80% of surface ground motion. But the vast majority of these sophisticated isolation methods are expensive and very hard to install under existing buildings.
Our alternative is to create foundations made from local soil mixed with some of the 15m tonnes of scrap tyre produced annually. This rubber-soil mixture can reduce the effect of seismic...
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