One half-hour after the May 12th Mw 7.9 Wenchuan, China earthquake, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response (PAGER) system distributed an automatically generated alert stating that 1.2 million people were exposed to severe-to-extreme shaking (Modified Mercalli Intensity VIII or greater). It was immediately clear that a large-scale disaster had occurred. These alerts were widely distributed and referenced by the major media outlets and used by governments, scientific, and relief agencies to guide their responses. The PAGER alerts and Web pages included predictive ShakeMaps showing estimates of ground shaking, maps of population density, and a list of estimated intensities at impacted cities. Manual, revised alerts were issued in the following hours that included the dimensions of the fault rupture. Within a half-day, PAGER’s estimates of the population exposed to strong shaking levels stabilized at 5.2 million people. A coordinated research effort is underway to extend PAGER’s capability to include estimates of the number of casualties. We are pursuing loss models that will allow PAGER the flexibility to use detailed inventory and engineering results in regions where these data are available while also calculating loss estimates in regions where little is known about the type and strength of the built infrastructure. Prototype PAGER fatality estimates are currently implemented and can be manually triggered. In the hours following the Wenchuan earthquake, these models predicted fatalities in the tens of thousands.
Additional Publication Details
Rapid exposure and loss estimates for the May 12, 2008 Mw 7.9 Wenchuan earthquake provided by the U.S. Geological Survey's PAGER system
World Conference on Earthquake Engineering
National Earthquake Information Center
The 14th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering