The total cost of damage to buildings was estimated at $33 billion, with modern buildings faring well but older buildings being particularly susceptible. Fires would rage – as they did following the Northridge earthquake – as gas mains, and mains water pipes, become severed; in fact, the damage from resulting fires is estimated as more costly than that resulting from the initial shaking.
The overall death toll is estimated at 1,800. And just when things don’t look like they can get any worse, the main event will have destabilised the tectonics of the region to such an extent that a series of potentially powerful aftershocks will begin. For example, in 2011, Christchurch, New Zealand was struck by a 6.2 magnitude event and since then the city and surrounding region have experienced more than 10,000 aftershocks.
Fortunately, the film San Andreas is pure fiction, featuring the levels of exaggeration we are all used to from film makers who are, ironically, also based in southern California.
Even so, in all probability, the San Andreas is likely to generate a significant earthquake in the not too distant future. When it arrives, the damage will be significant and southern California will be massively affected. But Californians are no strangers to these events and the infrastructure of the state, in recent times, has been designed with earthquake protection in mind.
Forget tsunamis and deep chasms opening up, but do expect violent shaking, building damage, fires and widespread economic impacts as the region is out of action for potentially a long period of time.