Next major earthquake on the Hayward Fault could cause up to 800 fatalities

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Kenneth Hudnut/Courtesy

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The next major earthquake along the Hayward Fault — which runs throughout the East Bay and directly through California Memorial Stadium — could cause up to 800 fatalities, according to a U.S. Geographical Survey, or USGS, report released April 18.

A study titled “The HayWired Earthquake Scenario” shows the possible effects of a 7.0 magnitude quake on the Hayward Fault line. According to the study, the Hayward Fault is one of the most active faults in the United States, with a major earthquake occurring approximately every 100 to 220 years.

In addition to the estimated 800 fatalities, Ken Hudnut, a science advisor for risk reduction at USGS and one of the scientists who wrote “The HayWired Earthquake Scenario” report, said USGS anticipates around 18,000 injuries and a “total economic impact of $82 billion.” This is not including the damages caused by what Hudnut described as a “significant fire,” which researchers also expect after such an earthquake.

As the fault also runs through densely populated areas, it has the potential to do serious damage to Bay Area infrastructure. The survey estimates that even if all buildings in the area were up to current building code, 0.4 percent could still collapse, and 5 percent could be unsafe to occupy.

Though the report was released recently, concerns over earthquake preparedness have long been a conversation in the Bay Area.

In Berkeley, the city incentivizes some homeowners to initiate safety upgrades on their properties, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko. Programs such as the Seismic Retrofit Program and Refund offer a deductible to encourage owners to make their residences earthquake safe after a property is sold.

As the fault runs just above campus, UC Berkeley has also taken recent steps to improve building safety. In 1997, the Seismic Action plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal assessed seismic needs in various areas around campus.

“There’s been a lot of upgrades on this campus. … Latimer was updated,” said campus structural engineering professor Jack Moehle. “Barrows … all those buildings and many others have had seismic upgrades. The campus has been really good at upgrades for its facilities.”

Memorial Stadium, which is cut almost in half by the Hayward Fault, went through an extensive seismic upgrade and reopened in 2012, after almost two years of construction. It now has a foundation with two sliding blocks, with one at each end of the stadium.

“After a big earthquake, this (sliding block) is going to be moved as much as six or seven feet,” Moehle said. “So things aren’t going to line up quite right, but it’s designed so that you can push (the stadium) more or less back into place.”

Contact Alexandra Stassinopoulos at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AE_Stass.