2009 John Monash Scholar, James Daniell, has become one of the world's most-cited sources on the socio-economic impact of earthquakes. Through early 2011, he has been occupied with assessments of the major events in Pakistan, New Zealand (Christchurch), Japan (Sendai) and Spain (Lorca), delivering rapid and accurate assessments of the damage. These assessments are critical to governments and aid organisations, allowing them to determine the relief resource and fundraising efforts required, as well as the likely disruption to a domestic economy.
With Australian-based colleague Gary Gibson, James has also recently considered Australian earthquakes. Over 90 damaging earthquakes have been recorded in Australia since the beginning of its European history. On a global scale, Australia has had very few earthquakes affecting society, in which 21 deaths, over 275 injured
and over 1500 homeless have been recorded, and just over $5 billion AUD damage caused. These statistics are dominated by the 1989 Newcastle Earthquake. However, other earthquakes have recorded losses to regional finance and infrastructure and a repeat earthquake could cause significant damage with the now increased exposure due to population growth. The 1954 Adelaide and 1989 Newcastle events caused comparatively large damage from low magnitude earthquakes, as most Australian buildings are built of URM (Un Reinforced Masonry) with a reasonably low seismic code by world standards. A repeat of the 1954 style event along a major fault through an urban centre, particularly in Adelaide and Perth – both cities of over 1 million people – could lead to in excess of $1 billion USD direct economic loss, with much more expected from indirect economic losses.
As Daniell and Gibson concluded, this this work furthers the need for systematic seismic risk assessments for urban centres in Australia.