Casualties in a major earthquake could be reduced by as much as 39 per cent with a 10-second early warning a new study shows.
The study - undertaken in China - says even a three-second early warning time can reduce casualties by 14 per cent.
Wang Tun, head of the Chengdu-based Institute of Care-Life which specialises in earthquake early warnings, says China's early warning system, at an average of 6.2 seconds, is the "fastest in the world".
He says this rate can be credited to high-tech and artificial intelligence which can identify seismic waveforms and false alarms. Wang's team use a cloud image system involving deep buried sensors that can detect stress and energy dynamics eight to 20km below the surface.
His remarks came on the 11th anniversary of the magnitude 8 earthquake in May 2008 in which more than 69,000 people died.
He says if there had been an early warning system at that time, perhaps there would have been 30 per cent (about 20,000) fewer deaths.
China's system covers the largest area in the world and includes 31 provinces and regions, 2.2m sq km and 660m people – about 90 per cent of densely-populated quake-prone areas.
Warning messages are despatched via mobile phone, radio and television, government microblogs and dedicated receiving terminals.
Warnings have been sent during 50 earthquakes including the magnitude 7 quake in Lushan, Sichuan Province in 2013 and the magnitude 6.5 quake in Ludian county in Southwest China's Yunnan Province in 2014 according to a document produced by the institute.
However experts say earthquake prediction remains a largely experimental topic and they agree the system can still be improved.
Although electromagnetic waves travel faster than seismic waves, meaning people in areas outside the epicentre can use the time difference to protect themselves, "it cannot play a role in reducing disasters in the hardest hit areas," Sun Shihong, a researcher with the China Earthquake Networks Centre says.
Content sourced from the People's Daily Online here