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Quakes Kill More Than 21,000 in 2001
Associated Press, Jan 4, 2002

Researchers say 2001 was a particularly deadly year for earthquakes, with 65 significant quakes worldwide blamed for killing more than 21,000 people. The U.S. Geological Survey said most of the fatalities occurred in the magnitude 7.7 quake that struck northwestern India on Jan. 26. Strong earthquakes are rare in the remote Gujarat state, which borders Pakistan. Most of the nearly 13,000 victims were trapped as thousands of dwellings and offices were reduced to rubble. "Dense urban populations coupled with weak building structures near the epicenters are responsible for most of the fatalities, in any year," said Waverly Person, director of the USGS National Earthquake Information Center.

In all, 21,436 people died in earthquakes last year, the USGS reported this week. The toll was significantly higher than in 2000, when 225 earthquake deaths were reported worldwide. On average, 10,000 people die in earthquakes annually, the USGS said. The deadliest earthquake in the past 100 years occurred in 1976 in Tangshan, China, where at least 240,000 died in a magnitude 7.8 event. The largest earthquake in 2001 was a magnitude 8.4 off the coast of Peru on June 23. It caused more than 100 deaths, but the impact was reduced because of its offshore location. El Salvador suffered a pair of major quakes on Jan. 13 and Feb. 13 that killed 5,000.

In the United States, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck the Seattle-Tacoma area on Feb. 28, causing $1.5 billion in damage and injuring 400. Officials said the toll was limited by an aggressive public campaign to enforce building codes and other earthquake mitigation measures. Millions of minor earthquakes occur annually. Significant earthquakes are those of magnitude 6.5 or greater or those that cause fatalities, injuries or substantial damage. During a typical year, 18 major temblors (magnitude 7.0 to 7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or higher) occur worldwide, the USGS said.