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Could the Kashmir earthquake have been predicted? And why are American scientists rebuilding the 1918 virus—one of the most virulent ever?

By Philip Ball   November 2005

Predicting earthquakes Could the Muzaffarabad earthquake in Kashmir, for which the death toll stands at nearly 40,000, have been foreseen? And if it could have been, would it have made much difference?

Earthquake fatalities depend not only on the quake’s magnitude—a measure of how much energy it releases—but on geological and demographic factors. In densely populated Kobe in 1995, a magnitude-6.9 quake claimed over 6,000 lives, despite Japan’s relatively advanced building technologies, because the region’s soft rocks liquefied. In contrast, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in California was magnitude 7.1 and the epicentre was just ten miles northeast of Santa…

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