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Switzerland at risk of major earthquake

Hugo Bachmann warned of the danger of a major earthquake Keystone

Switzerland could soon be struck by a major earthquake, according to experts. They say that, statistically, a large tremor is due, and that thousands of people may be at risk.

This content was published on September 7, 2000 - 13:56

The experts, from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, issued the warning on Thursday.

They said a major earthquake - on the scale of that which struck Basel in 1356, reaching the equivalent of 6.5 on the Richter scale - could be expected to strike the country every 100 years on average.

They warned that 95 per cent of Swiss buildings would be unable to withstand a major earthquake. They said the vulnerability of the infrastructure could lead to hundreds if not thousands of deaths, and cause material damage of up to SFr100 billion ($56 billion).

Hugo Baumann, a professor of building statistics and construction at the Institute said only buildings constructed after 1989 were built to withstand earthquakes.

Baumann and his colleagues recommended that stricter rules regarding construction be implemented across the building trade, saying that rules introduced in 1989 were not sufficiently binding.

Baumann said the risks posed by earthquakes in Switzerland were greater than those of any other natural dangers, including floods, storms and avalanches.

He said the government was spending only SFr100,000 a year on protection measures from earthquakes, compared to SFr600 million for other dangers - a situation he described as grossly disproportionate.

swissinfo with agencies

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