ENVIRONMENT

Earthquakes Threaten A Record 140 Million Americans: Researchers

NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24:  Bricks from a damaged building sit on a car following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: Bricks from a damaged building sit on a car following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3:00 am on Sunday morning causing damage to buildings and sending at least 70 people to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK, April 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than 143 million people in 48 neighboring states across the United States are at risk from earthquakes, experts said on Wednesday.

As many as 28 million people are likely to experience strong tremors in their lifetime and the value of building losses from earthquakes is estimated at $4.5 billion per year in the long term, the U.S. Geological Service (USGS), California Geological Survey and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said in a joint report.

"This analysis of data from the new National Seismic Hazard Maps reveals that significantly more Americans are exposed to earthquake shaking," said Bill Leith, the report's co-author and a senior science advisor at USGS.

Increased exposure to tremors reflected both the increased population living in areas more at risk along the U.S. Pacific coastline and a change in hazard assessment, Leith said.

Previous publications, using an estimate made some 20 years ago, put the number of Americans subject to significant risks from earthquakes at more than 75 million in 39 states, he said.

Scientists warned last month that California, a state highly prone to tremors, had a 7 percent chance of experiencing an earthquake of magnitude 8 or larger over the next three decades.

A series of minor tremors have hit Connecticut since October last year, a region were earthquakes are rarely felt.

In recent months, earthquakes of various intensity have struck in Texas, Idaho, California, and Nevada.

"Earthquakes remain an important threat to our economy," said Kishor Jaiswal, a researcher contractor with USGS.

"While the West coast may carry the larger burden of potential losses and the greatest threat from the strongest shaking, this report shows that the threat from earthquakes is widespread." (Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Tim Pearce)