You are on page 1of 44


Interactive Geography


Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard-prone areas?
(Teachers Edition)

HKDSE Interactive Geography
Aristo Educational Press Ltd. 2009
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Unit 1 Where can we find tectonic hazards?

Natural hazard
A natural hazard is an unusual natural phenomenon or process that could cause loss
of life and damage to property.
In general, there are four types of natural hazards:
Tectonic hazards Earthquake, volcanic eruption and Tsunami
Geomorphic hazards Landslide and Avalanche
Climatic hazards Typhoon, flooding and drought
Biological hazards Disease and locuts

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Global distribution patterns of the tectonic hazards
Refer to Fig.1.4 and Fig.1.5 in Section 1 p.9

Scientists have identified two regions where tectonic hazards are most active. They
1. The Circum-Pacific
This runs around the Pacific Ocean. Most of the
earthquakes, volcanoes and sources of tsunamis on the
Earth can be found here.
It is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire because many
volcanoes are distributed in a circular pattern around the
Pacific Ocean.

2. The Alpine-
Himalayan Belt
This runs from the Alps in Europe to the Himalayas in
South Asia. It is a zone with a very active occurrence of

Tectonic hazards can be found as well in East Africa and the middle of Atlantic Ocean.

The distribution of tectonic hazards coincides with plate boundaries.
Refer to Fig.1.6 in Section 1 p.10
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Unit 2 What are the causes of tectonic hazards?

Structure of our Earth
Refer to Fig.2.1 and Fig.2.2 in Section 1 p.14
Refer to Table 2.1 in Section 1 p.15

Our Earth can be divided into three main layers:
It is the outermost part of the Earth, which is also the layer of the
Earths surface we live on.
It is a thin layer of brittle rock which consists of continental crust and
oceanic crust.
Continental crust is thicker and less dense than oceanic crust and it
forms all continental landmasses on Earth.
It is the layer between the crust and the core.
It can be divided into two layers, the upper mantle and the lower
The asthenosphere of the upper mantle is in semimolten state, while
the rest of the upper and lower mantle is solid.
The uppermost part of the mantle, together with the crust on top, is
called the lithosphere.
It is the centre of the planet, which is made of extremely dense
materials under high temperature and pressure.
The core is divided into two layers: the solid inner core and the
molten outer core.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Plate tectonics theory
It is the study of plate movement and interaction, as well as crustal formation and
destruction which results in many landforms we commonly find on earth.
The theory also provides reasonable explanations of the causes of many tectonic

Refer to Fig.2.5 in Section 1 p.17

The Earth is completely covered by a layer of crust. According to the plate tectonics
theory, the crust is made up of different pieces called tectonic plates or plates.
The plates are large pieces of solid landmass floating on the asthenosphere which
form the Earths surface.
A plate may be composed of oceanic crust or continental crust, or both.
Some plates such as the Pacific Plate are dominated by oceanic crust. Other plates
such as the Eurasian Plate are composed mainly of continental crust.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Movement of plates
Refer to Fig.2.8 in Section 1 p.20

The movement of plates is driven by the convection currents in the mantle.
Owing to the high temperature of the core, mantle material near the core is heated and
rises up. As it comes closer to the top of the mantle, it cools slowly and descends. It is
then heated again when it gets closer to the core.
In this way, the convection currents in the mantle are formed, providing strong forces to
drive the plates to converge, diverge or move sideways.

Different types of plate boundaries
1. Constructive
plate boundaries
It is formed where two adjacent plates move apart from each
other, creating tensional force in between.
New crust is produced here as magma rises to the Earths
surface, cools and solidifies.
It is also called a divergent plate boundary.

2. Destructive
plate boundaries
It is formed where two adjacent plates move towards each
other, creating compressional force in between.
As two plates collide, the higher-density plate will sink beneath
the lower-density plate. The denser plate is then pushed into
the mantle and melted.
It is also known as a convergent plate boundary.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


3. Conservative
plate boundaries
It is formed where two adjacent plates slide past one another
laterally along a transform fault.
Shear stress is created along the boundary but no crust is
formed nor destroyed.

Destructive plate boundary
Conservative plate
Constructive plate boundary
Types of plate boundaries

Processes associated with plate movements

3.1 Folding
When compressional forces are applied to rock, the rock will be folded and deformed.
Folding takes place on different scales:
- Small-scale folds can be found in various places in Hong Kong, such as Ma Shi
Chau and Lai Chi Chong.
- On a global scale, we can find fold mountains such as the Himalayas and the
Andes, which are formed by the collision of two landmasses.
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


Rock before folding

Rock after folding

3.2 Faulting
Faulting occurs along the lines of weakness of rocks.
When tensional force, compressional force or shear stress is greater than the rock can
withstand, the rock will break along the fault plane and faulting occurs. This causes the
rock to displace either vertically or horizontally.

Fault plane
Fault line
Rock after faulting

Rift valleys and block mountains are the most typical large-scale landforms that are
formed by faulting.
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Formation of rift valley
Before After


Formation of block mountain
Before After
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

3.3 Vulcanicity
Refer to Fig.2.16 in Section 1 p.25

Plate movements and their associated tectonic forces produce lines of weakness in the
crust. As a result, magma and gases in the mantle either extrude onto the Earths
surface or intrude into the Earths crust. This process is called vulcanicity.
The most conspicuous landform related to vulcanicity on the Earths surface is a

Landforms can be found at constructive plate boundaries

1. Rift valleys
When two continental crusts are pulled apart by tensional forces, faults are formed in
the middle and the crust is split into huge blocks.
As the two crusts move further apart, the huge blocks of crust sink due to gravity. A rift
valley is thereby formed.
Example: East African Rift Valley
Volcanoes can be found along the rift valley as magma rises up through lines of
weakness, while lakes are also created at some deeper locations of the rift valley.
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


Formation of a rift valley

Refer to the case study of East African Rift Valley in Section 1 p.30

2. Mid-oceanic ridges
Under the sea, when two oceanic crusts move away from each other, magma rises up
from the mantle through lines of weakness to the surface. Then it cools and solidifies
to form new crust.
As the uprising of magma continues, newly formed crust is gradually pushed away
from the plate boundary. This process is called sea-floor spreading.
Repeated uprising and solidification of magma form mid-oceanic ridges.
Examples: The Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the East Pacific Rise
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


Mid-oceanic ridge
Crust moves apart
Formation of a mid-oceanic ridge

Refer to the case study of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in Section 1 p.31
Refer to the case study of the East Pacific Rise in Section 1 p.32

3. Volcanoes and volcanic islands
Volcanoes are often found at the plate boundaries where hot magma can rise to the
Earths surface through lines of weakness.
Volcanic islands are formed when volcanoes on the sea floor emerge at the sea
surface after repeated eruptions.
Examples: Iceland and Easter Island

Formation of a volcanic island
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Landforms can be found at destructive plate boundaries

When a continental crust collides with an oceanic crust, the crust with higher density
(oceanic crust) is pushed beneath the crust with lower density (continental crust).
The denser crust then sinks into the hot mantle and melts. This process is known as
subduction and a subduction zone is created.

Crust of higher density
is subducted
Subduction zone
Cross section of a subduction zone

When two continental crusts collide, no subduction zone is formed. Instead, sediments
and crustal materials at the plate margin are pushed up to form fold mountains.
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

1. Ocean trenches
Refer to Fig.2.30 in Section 1 p.34

Along subduction zones, long and narrow undersea troughs are formed, running
parallel to plate boundaries. These are known as ocean trenches.

2. Volcanoes and island arcs
Volcanoes are also common on the Earths surface above subduction zones.
Melted crustal materials at a subduction zone are less dense than the mantle.
Therefore, they rise to the Earths surface along cracks in the crust and form
These volcanoes usually form a curved chain running parallel to the plate boundaries,
therefore known as island arcs (over the sea) or continental arcs (over a continent).
Refer to the case study of Island arc - Japan in Section 1 p.34

Island arc Ocean trench
Ocean trench, volcano and island arc are formed when two oceanic
crusts collide
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

3. Fold mountains

a. Oceanic- continental collision
When a continental crust collides with an oceanic crust, the oceanic crust subducts
into the mantle due to higher density.
The sedimentary rocks on the ocean floor are compressed, folded and pushed up to
form a mountain belt called a fold mountain range. It runs parallel to the plate
Example: The Andes in South America
Refer to the case study of the Andes in Section 1 p.35

b. Continental- continental collision
Refer to Fig.2.35 in Section 1 p.36

When two continental crusts collide, neither one is pushed into the mantle because of
similar density.
The sedimentary rocks and crustal materials are crushed, compressed and pushed
upward to form a huge fold mountain range.
As there is no subduction, volcanoes and volcanic eruptions are absent at this type of
plate boundary (continental-continental collision), but earthquakes are quite common.
Example: The Himalayas
Refer to the case study of the Himalayas in Section 1 p.36
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


50 million
years ago
Formation of the Himalayas

Landforms can be found at conservative plate boundaries

Transform faults
When two plates slide past each other
laterally, shear stress builds up along the
plate boundary.
If the stress is too great, the plates will
fracture and produce a transform fault
along which many earthquakes occur.
Example: San Andreas Fault

Structure of a transform fault
Refer to the case study of San Andreas Fault
in Section 1 p.38
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Natural hazards found along plate boundaries

1. Earthquakes
An earthquake is a sudden shaking of the ground.
As plates move, compressional and tensional force or shear stress will develop along
plate boundaries.
Stress is created and accumulated at the plate boundary until the plate fractures. This
sudden release of stress produces seismic waves which propagate in all directions,
causing the ground to shake (earthquake).
The point where the crust suddenly fractures and releases seismic waves is called a
focus, and the point on the Earths surface vertically above the focus is known as an
Refer to Fig.2.43 in Section 1 p.40

Earthquakes which occur at constructive and conservative plate boundaries are
limited to the areas along the plate boundary, and they are mainly shallow-focus
At destructive plate boundaries, subduction of one plate creates an earthquake zone
deep in the crust. Earthquakes of various depths can be found here. The area
affected by earthquakes is also much larger.
Refer to Fig.2.45 in Section 1 p.41
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

2. Volcanic eruptions
Convection currents in the mantle drift the plates to converge or diverge. As a result,
strong tensional and compressional forces are exerted on the crusts at the plate
boundaries, creating lines of weakness.
When the pressure beneath the Earths surface becomes very high, magma and
gases are pushed up to the surface through lines of weakness or vents, causing a
volcanic eruption.
When a volcano erupts, gases (such as sulphur dioxide), lava and pyroclastic are
Violent eruptions may also cause earthquakes and tsunamis.

3. Tsunamis
Refer to Fig.2.47 in Section 1 p.42

Tsunamis are very big sea waves caused by geological activities.
Most tsunamis are triggered by strong earthquakes that occur under the sea floor,
whereas some are caused by particularly violent volcanic eruptions or landslides
under the sea.
The dramatic tremor in the sea produces big waves, but they are usually not
noticeable in deep sea. The waves become prominent when they reach the coastlines,
causing devastating effects on the coastal areas.
As the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are most frequent at the plate boundaries,
most of the sources of tsunamis are also found there.
The coastal areas around the Pacific Ocean are especially vulnerable to tsunamis due
to active tectonic activities in the region.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Reasons that some earthquakes located far away from plate boundaries

1. Intraplate earthquakes
Intraplate earthquakes are earthquakes which occur
within the interior part of plates.
The causes of intraplate earthquakes:
- In general, many of these earthquakes are the
result of fault rupture or displacements in fault
Refer to Fig.2.49 in Section 1 p.46

2. Human activities
Human activities and artificial structures may trigger
earthquakes due to exertion of pressure on land.
- the heavy weight of water stored in a large
- violent explosions caused by humans, such as
nuclear testing

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Reasons that some volcanic eruptions not happen along plate

Hot spots
Refer to Fig.2.51 in Section 1 p.48

The formation of hot spots is caused by uneven heat distributions in the mantle.
Columns of hot material are buoyant enough to rise from the mantle to the Earths
surface through an opening. Therefore, volcanic activities are common at hot spots.
Hot spots can be found both at plate boundaries and in the middle of plates.

The positions of some hot spots remain relatively fixed.
As tectonic plates move over a fixed column of hot mantle material, a chain of
volcanoes following the direction of plate movement will be formed.
Example: Hawaii
Refer to Fig.2.52 and 2.53 in Section 1 p.48
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Unit 3 What are the effects of tectonic hazards?

Factors affecting the power of tectonic hazards

1.1 Characteristics of the hazard events
1. Magnitude
and intensity
a. Earthquakes
- the energy released by an earthquake
- usually measured on the Richter Scale
- the destruction caused by an earthquake to
human settlements and natural environment
- usually measured on the Modified Mercalli
Intensity Scale
- The higher number of the scales, the greater the
Refer to Table 3.1 in Section 1 p.53

The intensity of an earthquake depends on two
- distance from the epicenter
- depth of the earthquake
Usually the closer to the epicentre, the greater the
intensity an area will experience.
An earthquake with a shallow focus brings more
destructive effects than a deep earthquake.
Refer to Fig.3.1 and Fig.3.2 in Section 1 p.52

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


b. Volcanic
The way that a volcano erupts affects its power of
In general, volcanic eruptions can be classified as
explosive and gentle.
Most explosive volcanic eruptions are found along
destructive plate boundaries, and they usually cause
greater damage than gentle eruptions.

1. Magnitude
and intensity
c. Tsunamis
The power of a tsunami is determined by the strength
of its sources.
If the tsunami is triggered by an earthquake, the
greater the magnitude of the earthquake, the bigger
the tsunami.
Coastal regions with low-lying relief will be damaged
more significantly by the big waves.
The intensity of a tsunami is usually represented by its
run-up height, i.e. the maximum height of the waves.
In general, the greater the run-up height, the further
inland the waves will reach, leading to more damage
and casualties.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


2. Frequency
Frequency of occurrence means how often a hazard recurs.
A volcano may remain dormant for decades since its previous
Earthquakes recur more often especially along the area of plate
Refer to Table 3.2 in Section 1 p.54
3. Duration
Duration measures how long a hazard event lasts.
In general, the longer the duration, the more damage can be possibly
4. Areal
Areal extent refers to the size of an area impacted by a hazard event.
While volcanic eruptions are usually localised events, earthquakes
under oceans may trigger tsunamis that affect all coastal regions
around the ocean.
5. Speed of
Speed of onset means how fast a hazard event occurs.
Tectonic hazards usually occur in a sudden and this makes prediction
and warning difficult.

1.2 Societal conditions of the affected areas
1. Population
The higher the population density of an affected area, the greater
the casualties and economic loss that will be caused by the
2. Preparedness
of people
If citizens of an affected area prepare well for the hazard, they will
know how to react properly when a hazard occurs.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


3. Monitoring
and warning
If a place is equipped with monitoring and warning systems for
hazards, scientists can give warnings before a hazard occurs.
This can help reduce the casualties and economic losses through
earlier evacuation and proper preparations.

The effects of earthquakes

1. Primary effects
effects that happen immediately and directly as a result of ground shaking.

a. Fault rupture and
deformation of
Along the active fault line where an earthquake occurs, ground
surfaces may rupture and displace, causing cracks and

b. Ground shaking
Ground shaking is a direct result of energy released from the
focus when seismic waves reach the ground surface.
Such shaking may destroy buildings and other structures at the
epicentre or areas nearby.

c. Aftershocks
Aftershocks often follow an earthquake.
These tremors may continue for several weeks to months,
causing further destruction to affected areas.
Refer to the case study in Section 1 p.58

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

2. Secondary effects
the impacts and damage caused by the primary ground shaking effect

a. Landslides
When there is a violent shaking of ground, loose materials and
debris on slopes may move down.
Large-scale landslides will be triggered in areas with steep
relief and unstable slopes.

b. Soil liquefaction
During an earthquake, the pressure of ground water increases.
If the soil is poorly compacted, soil liquefaction may occur when
soil particles mix with ground water.
The strength of the soil in supporting the foundations of
buildings will be severely weakened. Therefore, buildings may
sink and collapse.

c. Flooding
A strong earthquake may damage dams or other waterworks
along a river.
The water from the river or reservoir would then flood
downstream areas in a very short time, leading to casualties
and economic losses.

d. Tsunamis
If the earthquake occurs under the sea, the tremor may cause a

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


e. Disruption of
Cities are linked by many highways, railways and road
networks. All these transport networks form important lifelines
to a city.
Any damage to the lifelines will make rescue more difficult and
delay resumption of normal life.

f. Disruption of
Communications through telephone and Internet may be
interrupted if the earthquake damages underground cables.
This reduces the efficiency of rescue and contributes to further
economic loss.

g. Fire hazards
If an urbanised area is struck by an earthquake, gas pipes and
electricity networks will be damaged.
Fires may break out as a result of gas leakage or electrical
short circuits. This may lead to more casualties.

h. Disease and
If there is no prompt action to bury dead bodies and maintain
supplies of clean water after an earthquake, disease and
epidemics like malaria may spread among victims which cause
further casualties and suffering.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

The effects of volcanic eruptions

1. Short term effects
a. Lava flows
Lava flow can endanger our lives and cause extensive
economic loss.
Less viscous lava can move at speeds of up to 50 km per
hour on steep slopes, and can spread quickly over tens of
kilometres from the volcano. The lava will burn everything it
passes through.

b. Pyroclastic flows
and ash fall
When a volcano erupts, mixtures of lava particles, rock
fragments and volcanic ash are ejected from the volcano.
These pyroclastic materials, together with hot gases, travel
downhill at high speed due to gravity. This is known as a
pyroclastic flow.
The high temperature of gases and large pieces of rock
(volcanic bombs) may kill people.
The volcanic ash blows into the atmosphere to form eruption
clouds. Areas around the volcano will be covered with
volcanic ash when it is deposited. Daily lives of people are
seriously disturbed.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


c. Gases
Active volcanoes produce large amounts of water vapour and
gases such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen
sulphide and carbon monoxide.
Carbon dioxide can drive oxygen away, making humans and
animals suffocate.
Acid gases like sulphur dioxide may attack our respiratory
system and also cause acid rains which damage the
Some gases emitted are even poisonous, such as hydrogen

d. Thunderstorms
and mudflow
When large amounts of volcanic ash and dust are injected into
the atmosphere, they act as condensation nuclei which speed
the formation of water droplets, causing heavy rainstorms and
Mudflow occurs when volcanic materials are mixed with
rainwater and flow quickly through river valleys and low-lying

e. Landslides
Landslides may occur when the slope of the volcano is steep
and unstable, or when the eruption is particularly violent.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


f. Earthquakes
Before or during a volcanic eruption, the release of
accumulated pressure and gases under the ground may
cause violent shaking of the crust, resulting in earthquakes.

g. Tsunamis
If a volcanic eruption occurs under the sea, the great shock
generated may trigger a tsunami.
Low-lying coastal regions may suffer severe damage as a

2. Long term effects
a. Drop in global
During a volcanic eruption, large amounts of volcanic ash are
ejected into the stratosphere where it reflects incoming solar
radiation back to space. This leads to a regional or even a
global drop in air temperature.
As it takes a very long time for the ash to settle, local and
global climate may be affected for several years as a result of
a volcanic eruption.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


b. Acid rain
When a volcano erupts, dissolved gases in magma are
released. When these gases, particularly sulphur dioxide and
hydrogen sulphide, are mixed with rainwater, acid rain results.
This may destroy natural habitats and damage human

c. Destruction of
natural habitats
A volcanic eruption often destroys nearby natural habitats
Ecological restoration may take decades.

d. Famines and
Apart from the deaths caused by direct hazards like
pyroclastic flow, a volcanic eruption may bring further deaths
due to famine and epidemic, particularly in less developed

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Benefits brought by volcanic eruptions

a. Fertile soil
The volcanic ash and lava ejected during an eruption are
rich in minerals.
This makes the farmlands near volcanoes more fertile
and good for farming.

b. Attractive landforms
for tourists
Volcanic eruptions may produce different landforms,
such as crater lakes and lava domes.
These scenic landforms, together with hot springs near
them, are attractive to tourists.

c. Geothermal energy
The high temperatures brought by underground magma
flows make the use of geothermal energy possible,
which is beneficial to humans.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

The effects of tsunamis

1. Short term effects
a. Sweep effect
When a series of tsunami waves rush ashore, the strong
swash actions will sweep everything on the shore towards
This causes direct destruction of human settlements and the
environments along the coast. Most deaths are caused by
drowning when the waves sweep ashore.
The destruction caused by sweep effect is more significant
along coastal areas with gentle relief.
Sea waves may reach several kilometres inland in case of
large-scale tsunami, causing massive destruction.

b. Flooding
A tsunami may also bring temporary flooding to the affected
areas when a lot of sea water rushes inland.
Most flooding ends when the sea level returns to normal.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

2. Long term effects
a. Change of
After a devastating tsunami, the coastline of affected areas
may be changed permanently.

b. Damage of the
The marine ecology may also be seriously affected.
Example: Coral reefs may be destroyed by large waves
during the passage of a tsunami. Such damage may take
decades to recover.

c. Interruption of
the local economy
After a tsunami, economic activities in affected areas will be
interrupted or even halted.
The more serious the damage to infrastructure, the slower the
resumption of normal economic activities.
Tourists may also avoid visiting places where a tsunami has
just occurred. This slows economic recovery of the affected
areas, especially for those that rely heavily on tourism.

Refer to the case stud of 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami in Section 1 p.72

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Measures used to reduce the impact of tectonic hazards

3.1 Preparatory measures before hazard events
1. Monitoring and
Advanced technology allows us to better understand how and
what precursors may take place before the onset of hazards.
Earth scientists can use different instruments and technologies to
monitor the anomalies before a volcanic eruption, such as
changes in the underground water level, shaking of the volcano,
or volcanic gas emissions.
Although it is still very difficult to predict the exact time and place
of an earthquake, a network of seismographic stations may give
scientists up-to-date information on crustal activities for further
This also helps locate the epicentres of earthquakes more
accurately and increase the efficiency of rescue operations.

2. Issue warnings
With the help of monitoring and predicting systems, scientists are
able to issue timely warnings, especially for volcanic eruptions
and tsunamis.
Governments can evacuate affected populations before the
hazard occurs to reduce the number of casualties.
To monitor tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean region, the Pacific
Tsunami Warning Centre has been set up.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

- The centre monitors the earthquakes occurring around the
Pacific Ocean and assesses their possibilities of triggering
- It will issue warnings to the governments of affected countries
when necessary.
Refer to Fig.3.29 in Section 1 p.78
3. Risk
Scientists have analysed the chance of hazards occurring at
different places. Such information can be presented in the form
of hazard maps.
The risk assessment mapping can help people prepare better for
possible hazards in the future.
Refer to Fig.3.30 in Section 1 p.79
4. Land use
Risk assessment mapping done on a local scale can be used by
governments for land use zoning.
Areas with a higher risk of hazards can be identified on a hazard
map. Planners can zone these areas for low-density
development with fewer human settlements and activities.
Example: Along the coastal areas vulnerable to tsunami attacks,
buffer zones such as green belts can be designated. This can
reduce the impact of hazards when they occur.
Refer to Fig.3.31 and Fig.3.32 in Section 1 p.79

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


5. Education and
A government should educate its citizens about potential hazards
and their signs and impact.
Regular drills should be conducted so that people know what
actions (e.g. evacuation) should be taken to protect themselves if
a hazard occurs.
6. Improve
building design
and set up
Casualties can be reduced by improving building designs with
reinforced structures, such as shear walls, cross-bracing and
base isolators.
Governments should set up laws and regulations to ensure all
new buildings are built with designs that can withstand strong
earthquakes, especially in earthquake-prone regions.
Refer to Fig.3.37a and b in Section 1 p.82
7. Buy insurance
We can buy insurance in advance to reduce economic losses
caused by the hazard.
The money recovered can be used for reconstruction after the

3.2 Immediate actions after hazard events
1. Prompt
rescue and
After a hazard, prompt rescue actions can save many lives and good
medical services can ensure a greater chance of survival.
The government should organise efficient rescue teams equipped
with the most advanced tools to minimise casualties.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


2. Efficient aid
and clean-up
Survivors of a hazard event are often homeless and lack basic
Therefore, it is important for the government to provide them with
immediate aid such as shelters, clean water, food and other
necessities. Hygiene must be maintained in affected areas.
These measures can help prevent deaths caused by famine and
outbreak of disease after a hazard.

3.3 Remedial measures after hazard events
1. Implementation
of rehabilitation
After a hazard, infrastructure and human settlements may be
severely damaged.
The government needs to carry out comprehensive
rehabilitation programmes to rebuild the affected areas.
2. Help people
While physical damage can be recovered in a short period of
time, psychological trauma of the survivors may last for a long
Many people may have lost family members and friends in the
hazard, or have suffered great economic losses. Such
traumatic experiences make it difficult for them to return their
lives to normal.
Counselling services should be provided to help them recover
from such painful experiences.
Refer to Fig.3.41 in Section 1 p.84
Refer to the case study of 1995 Kobe earthquake in Section 1 p.85
Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Factors affecting the effectiveness of these measures
1. Technological
Sometimes scientists may issue false warnings due to
inaccurate predictions, while in other cases hazards come
unexpectedly and cause serious casualties.
This is especially true for the prediction of earthquakes, as the
technologies available today are still unable to predict the exact
location, magnitude and time of potential earthquakes.
For volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, the warnings are relatively
more accurate but still not entirely reliable.

2. Government
Many administrative measures such as defining building
regulations and formulating evacuation plans should be done
by the government.
Therefore, the effectiveness of these measures depends
heavily on enforcement by government officials.
If they do not fully implement the measures, effectiveness will
be reduced.

3. Participation by
the public
Education and regular drills are important measures to help
citizens become familiar with actions to take when hazards
However, this requires active participation by the public.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


4. Adoption of
Even if an advanced prediction system can give accurate
predictions of dangerous hazard events, casualties cannot be
reduced if there is no proper plan of evacuation or buildings are
too weak to withstand the hazards.

5. Adequate
Adequate preparations are very important to make measures

6. Financial
The success of all measures used to minimise the impacts of
natural hazards depends on the financial strength of the
If the government does not have enough money to fully carry
out the programmes and measures needed, their effectiveness
will be reduced.
This explains why less developed countries are more
vulnerable to natural hazards.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Unit 4 The choice to live in hazard-prone areas

Reasons for less developed areas suffer more from natural hazards
1. Socio-economic
Less developed areas are usually poorer.
Although there are many measures to reduce the impact of
natural hazards, most of them are too expensive for the less
developed areas to adopt.
The lack of resources also leads to other problems, such as
inadequate medical services and inefficient rescue after
The governments are also unable to have their properties
insured due to financial limitations.

2. Technological
Many less developed areas lack resources to buy or develop
the equipment needed.
This creates a technological gap between the less developed
and the more developed areas. Therefore, the less developed
areas are poorly prepared for the hazards.

3. Poor
and infrastructure
Communication and infrastructure such as transport networks
are less efficient in less developed areas, especially in remote
This makes prompt rescue more difficult and increases the
number of casualties when hazards occur.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


4. Low literacy
level and lack of
Citizens in less developed areas usually have less education.
Some of them are even illiterate.
Therefore, they have little knowledge about natural hazards
and they are unable to prepare for and protect themselves
from the hazards properly.
5. Poor governance
Many government officials in less developed areas do not
know very well how to prepare for natural hazards.
Laws and regulations that can reduce the impact of hazards
(such as land use zoning and emergency plans) may be
Corruption is often common in less developed areas, which
makes enforcement of regulations against hazards less

International cooperation helping less developed areas tackle hazards
International organisations, science agencies and more developed areas can help the
less developed areas better prepare for hazards through information exchange,
technology transfers and financial aid.
Other voluntary organisations such as International Federation of Red Cross and Red
Crescent Societies, Mdecins Sans Frontires (MSF) and World Vision also pay
attention to hazards around the world, particularly in less developed areas.
They provide immediate humanitarian and medical aid to the people who suffer from
hazards. Community rehabilitation programmes are also offered.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?

Causes driving people leave a hazard-prone area
1. Past experience
of hazards
People who have experienced a major disaster in the past
may feel scared of having another one in the future.
To avoid this frightening experience, they may choose to
leave that location and move to a place where they feel safer.

2. High probability
of having hazards
With the help of advanced technology and past hazard
records, we can identify high risks locations.
People can choose to move to the low-risk region so as to
reduce their exposure to natural hazards.

Reasons for people still live in hazard-prone areas
1. Supply of natural
There are many natural resources in areas along the
plate boundaries.
Deposition of volcanic ash and the weathering of
solidified lava around volcanoes form fertile soil.
Mineral deposits are formed in areas with large-scale
active tectonic activities.
Geothermal energy resources can also be developed in
volcanically active regions.
Landforms such as hot springs and volcanoes, are also
good attractions for tourists.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


2. Good climate
Some hazard-prone areas lie within climatic zones which
are good for farming activities and comfortable to live in,
i.e. tropical and subtropical regions.

3. Well-developed with
good facilities
Some high-risk areas, such as big cities in the USA and
J apan, have a long history of development. They are
well-developed with good infrastructure and facilities,
giving a higher living standard and attract a lot of people.
These cities usually have developed a good mechanism
to manage natural hazards. People are less willingly to
move to other places.

4. No choice
In less developed areas, such as the Philippines and
Indonesia, people are too poor to migrate to other
places. They have no choice but to stay and live with the
risk of natural hazards where they are.

5. Inertia
People often do not want to change their living places
because of established social networks, career and
business ties.
Unless a threat is imminent and serious, they will choose
to stay in the place where they are used to living.

Section 1
Opportunities and risks
Is it rational to live in hazard prone areas?


6. Underestimation of
Many people think it is unlikely for them to experience a
big natural hazard event.
However, the possibility of a big one does exist, and past
records cannot provide accurate predictions for the time
and magnitude of future events.

7. There is no safe
place anywhere
There is no place that is completely free of natural
Therefore, many people think there is very little they can
do to avoid hazards. They will remain where they are as
long as the risk of hazards is acceptable to them.