November 25, 2013

The strongest quaking ever seen on video

Posted by Austin Elliott

Earthquake videos abound on Youtube, but there are a select few that truly stand apart for the astonishing strength of the ground motion they capture. Even with gargantuan earthquakes that have hit tech-savvy, video-grabbing cities, very few cameras have ever been located in places that experienced truly extreme ground motions. Of course, in the future this number will increase.

For now, in all my perusal of YouTube quake videos, I have seen none that surpass the shaking intensity recorded by cameras in the 2010 Haiti and the 1995 Kobe earthquakes.

First we start with Kobe, the M6.9 90’s classic–an iconic earthquake scene for the generation, in which a sleeping Japanese office worker is awakened and then chased around the room by furniture:

In that same earthquake, a convenience store camera captured some lateral g’s:

…including another angle that was famously used opportunistically as a crude seismogram:

After that, no other video recording of such strong shaking existed–that I know of–until January, 2010, when Port-au-Prince, Haiti was profoundly rocked by a M7.0 earthquake. This video may take the cake. The shaking is so strong that nearly everything falls to a resting place. Once it’s all on the floor, the heavy shaking continues, but you can scarcely see it because there are no more items to wobble and topple. What sets these clips apart from all others is the people getting truly thrown from their feet.

A second video from PaP shows several scenes from the National Library, including the horrific collapse of a neighboring building. It’s a sobering video, so be prepared. Once again, it shows people and furniture being heaved in a way I have not seen in any video but from this and the Kobe earthquake.

Beyond these, the competitors appear fairly far behind. A 12th floor bar in Chile sways wildly during the 2010 M8.8:

…and a hostel nearby gets violently shaken [mind the dreadful soundtrack]:

The Tohoku earthquake may be a legitimate competitor, but the duration of shaking is so long you almost become jaded when watching it. Furthermore the epicenter was far offshore, meaning the highest accelerations were limited to the seafloor. You can appreciate the differences in the nature of shaking (intensity versus duration) with a comparison of the ShakeMaps from Tohoku and Haiti. This partial video of the Tohoku quake shows some severe ground motions, but in most others it’s strong but not extreme–just long.

What do you think? Have I missed any? Do I overestimate these? Let us know in the comments if you think you have other contenders.