South Korea emergency responders ill-prepared for earthquakes, report says

SEOUL, Sept. 13 (UPI) — Two of the largest earthquakes in South Korea’s history are raising questions about the country’s readiness to deal with more severe tremors.

The two earthquakes, one with a magnitude of 5.1 and another with a magnitude of 5.8, took place near the South Korean city of Gyeongju on Monday and sent shock waves across the country’s southeast.

While no deaths were reported, at least eight people were injured and more than 250 individual cases of property damage were reported, according to local news network YTN.

Regional fire departments critical to responding to emergencies, however, are themselves not capable of withstanding serious earthquakes, Yonhap reported Tuesday.

According to a South Korean parliamentary committee on security administration, less than 50 percent of the country’s fire departments are housed in buildings that can survive serious earthquakes.

In Incheon, a major city close to South Korea’s main international airport, only one fire department was evaluated as earthquake-proof. In Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city, only 2 out of 11 fire departments were designed to resist earthquakes, according to the report.

There have been a total of 297 earthquakes in South Korea in the last five years, but the vast majority have been minor tremors. Only eight of the earthquakes have registered a magnitude of 5.0 or greater, according to South Korea press.

The 5.8-magnitude earthquake sent tremors equivalent to the aftereffects of detonating 500,000 tons of high explosives or TNT, YTN reported.

The earthquake was also 50 times more powerful than the artificial quake caused by North Korea‘s fifth nuclear test, according to the report.

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