Where can I find photographs of earthquake damage?

Two sources for photographs that show earthquake damage are:


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How does the USGS tell the difference between an earthquake and a sonic boom?

Steps to identification of a sonic boom:

  • The USGS sees either nothing on our seismic records or a fairly short high-frequency signal  that doesn't look like an earthquake.

  • On rare occasions, we see the event on multiple stations, and the time difference between stations matches the speed of

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What are earthquake lights?

Phenomena such as sheet lightning, balls of light, streamers, and steady glows, reported in association with earthquakes are called earthquake lights (EQL).  Geophysicists differ on the extent to which they think that individual reports of unusual lighting near the time and epicenter of an earthquake actually represent EQL

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Can you feel an earthquake if you're in a cave? Is it safer to be in a cave during an earthquake?

There is nothing different about a cave that would make it immune to the shaking from an earthquake.  Just as there are safer and less safer places to be on the surface of the earth during an earthquake, there are also various characteristics inside caves that make some cave locations safer or less safe than others.  First

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What is liquefaction?

Liquefaction takes place when loosely packed, water-logged sediments at or near the ground surface lose their strength in response to strong ground shaking. Liquefaction occurring beneath buildings and other structures can cause major damage during

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Why do earthquakes in other countries seem to cause more damage and casualties than earthquakes in the U.S.?

There is more damage and more deaths from earthquakes in other parts of the world primarily because of buildings which are poorly designed and constructed for earthquake regions, and population density.

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How can an earthquake affect groundwater or changes in wells?

Groundwater levels in wells may oscillate up and down while seismic waves pass, and in some cases, the water level may remain higher or lower for a period of time after the seismic wavetrain has ended.

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What are those booms I sometimes hear before or during an earthquake?

"Booms" have been reported for a long time, and they tend to occur more in the Northeastern US and along the East Coast. Of course, most "booms" that people hear or experience are actually some type of cultural noise, such as some type of explosion, a large vehicle going by, or sometimes a sonic boom, but there have been

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At what magnitude does damage begin to occur in an earthquake?

It isn't that simple. There is not one magnitude above which damage will occur. It also depends on other variables, such as the the distance from the earthquake, what type of soil you are on, etc. That being said, damage does not usually occur until the

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What does an earthquake feel like?

The way an earthquake feels depends on where you are, where the earthquake is, and how big the earthquake is:

  • A large earthquake nearby will feel like a sudden large jolt followed quickly by more strong shaking that may last a few seconds or up to a couple of minutes if it's a rare great event. The shaking

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Date published: March 19, 2014

New Videos Released for Great Alaska Quake 50th Anniversary

The U.S. Geological Survey has released two new videos about the Great Alaska Earthquake of March 27, 1964 to commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the largest earthquake ever recorded in the United States. The videos include rare vintage film footage and photos of the earthquake damage, combined with modern interviews with some of the same scientists who first investig

Attribution: Natural Hazards
Date published: March 18, 2014

Historic Reports Reissued for Great Alaska Quake 50th Anniversary

To commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the largest earthquake ever recorded in the United States, the U.S. Geological Survey has reissued a series of landmark reports covering the results of investigations of the Great Alaska Earthquake of March 27, 1964.

Attribution: Natural Hazards
Date published: January 16, 2014

SAFRR Coordinates and Participates in Northridge Earthquake 20th Anniversary Events

SAFRR Coordinates and Participates in Northridge Earthquake 20th Anniversary Events

Date published: September 22, 2009

Meeting the challenge of the Loma Prieta earthquake: 20 years of scientific and technological advances

On October 17, the San Francisco Bay Area will be marking the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake -- the Bay Area's most significant and destructive earthquake during recent times. As part of the anniversary commemoration, the U.S. Geological Survey is holding an evening public lecture about scientific and technological advances in earthquake studies achieved since 1989.

Date published: April 5, 2006

Media Advisory: Virtual Tour Offers Modern and Historic Close-Ups of 1906 Earthquake

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will release an on-line virtual tour of the 1906 earthquake on Thursday, April 6, that will offer the public an opportunity to interactively view both historic information and up-to-the-minute science and hazard information on the most damaging earthquake in U.S. history.

Date published: April 17, 2001

Eye and Earwitness Accounts of 1906 Earthquake

Eyewitness accounts of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco agree on a number of striking points, according to Jack Boatwright of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Date published: April 1, 1996

Evidence of Major Prehistoric Earthquakes in Midwest

About 10 strong earthquakes have struck southern Illinois and Indiana during the past 12,000 years, according to a new study by geologist Steve Obermeier of the U.S. Geological Survey and archeologists Pat Munson and Rex Garniewicz of Indiana University.

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February 21, 2014

"1964 Quake: The Great Alaska Earthquake" is an eleven minute video highlighting the impacts and effects of America's largest recorded earthquake. It is an expanded version of the four minute video "Magnitude 9.2". Both were created as part of USGS activities acknowledging the fifty year anniversary of the quake on March 27, 2014. The video features USGS geologist George Plafker, who, in the 1960's, correctly interpreted the quake as a subduction zone event. This was a great leap forward in resolving key mechanisms of the developing theory of plate tectonics. Landslide impacts and the extreme tsunami threat posed by these quakes are also discussed. Loss of life and destruction from the earthquake and accompanying tsunamis was the impetus for things like the NOAA Tsunami Warning Centers and the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program.

Image: Damage from 2008 Great Sichuan Earthquake in China
October 18, 2008

The May 12, 2008, Great Sichuan Earthquake, also called the Wenchuan Earthquake, occurred at 14:28 local time, in Sichuan Province, China. The earthquake magnitudes were Mw = 7.9 (USGS), Ms = 8.0 (Chinese Earthquake Administration). The epicenter was 80 km west-northwest of Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province. Damage by earthquake-induced landslides was catastrophic and accounted for many of the casualties. This photo is of the town of Qushan, Beichuan County, China, destroyed by strong shaking and catastrophic landslides. This photo was taken after deadly debris flows had recently impacted the area.

Image: Northridge, CA Earthquake Damage
January 1, 1994

Collection of USGS still images taken after the January 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake highlighting the damage to buildings and infrastructure.

Ground view of collapsed building and burned area, Beach and Divisadero Sts., Marina District.
1989 (approx.)

Ground view of collapsed building and burned area at Beach and Divisadero Streets, Marina District, San Francisco, following the October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. At 5:04:15 p.m. (PDT), the magnitude 6.9 (moment magnitude; surface-wave magnitude, 7.1) earthquake severely shook the San Francisco and Monterey Bay regions. The epicenter was located at 37.04° N. latitude, 121.88° W. longitude near Loma Prieta peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains, approximately 14 km (9 mi) northeast of Santa Cruz and 96 km (60 mi) south-southeast of San Francisco.

Image: Long Beach Earthquake: Damaged Building
March 10, 1933

The corner of the building collapsed into rubble.

Devastation of 1906 San Francisco Earthquake
1906 (approx.)

This photograph, taken by George Lawrence from a series of kites five weeks after the great earthquake of April 18, 1906, shows the devastation brought on the city of San Francisco by the quake and subsequent fire. The view is looking over Nob Hill toward business district, South of the Slot, and the distant Mission. The Fairmont Hotel, far left. dwarfs the Call Building. (photo courtesy of Harry Myers).

Wrecked buildings and washed-up boat far from water after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011.

Extensive damage to buildings and roads, and large boats washed far ashore, provide valuable information to tsunami researchers. Here, in Natori, Japan, south of Sendai, the height of damage indicates that the water flow from the tsunami wave was about 10 meters (33 feet).