Earthquakes are perhaps the one natural disaster that take into account socioeconomic factors. Witness the two that have occurred recently.
In Algeria, a 6.8 quake resulted in over 2,000 deaths and horrific destruction of buildings and infrastructure. Officials believe that the final death toll will be over 3,000. Poorly built housing and infrastructure are the killers in earthquakes, not the event itself.
An estimated 6.9 quake hit Japan today and this report from the BBC tells of no deaths and two fires. The fact that Japan is experienced with earthquakes and the populus is more wealthy and can afford homes and buildings that are stronger makes an incredible difference in earthquake preparedness and survival.
The strange thing about earthquakes is that they have a narrow range of deadly effects. For example, I am certain that before “civilization” blossomed, earthquakes were little more than oddities. It wasn’t until humans began building structures and living inside them that earthquakes became a real threat. What could possibly happen to you if you lived on a plain in a tipi or tent, and there was an earthquake?
Some governments need to learn that lesson. Japan has, somewhat.