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2017 Pawnee earthquake

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 This article is an A-class article. It is written to a very high standard. This article is part of Altverse II.
2017 Pawnee earthquake
2017 Pawnee earthquake freeway.jpg
Damaged section of Interprovincial 5 receiving assessment a week after the earthquake
2017 Pawnee earthquake locator map.png
Date January 11, 2017 (2017-01-11)
Origin time 4:17:33 am PST
Duration 2 minutes 4 seconds
Magnitude 7.8 Mw
Depth 8.3 mi (13.4 km)
Epicenter 33°50′N 116°22′W
Fault San Andreas Fault
Type Strike-strip interplate
Areas affected Greater Porciúncula Area
Southwest Corridor
Total damage $221 billion
Max. intensity X (Extreme)
Peak acceleration 1.82 g
Tsunami Yes
Landslides Yes
Foreshocks 6.2 Mw January 10, 2017
Aftershocks 6.6 Mw January 11, 2017
5.9 Mw January 12, 2017
Casualties 5,348 killed
57,836 injured
777 people missing
Coat of arms of Sierra.svg
Part of a series on the
History of the
Kingdom of Sierra
Early Native Sierrans
European exploration
Portolà expedition
Spanish mission system
Las Californias
Mexican War of Independence
California Trail
Mexican-American War
California Republic
Gold Rush
1858 Constitution
War of Contingency
Sierran Civil War
Second Industrial Revolution
Progressive Era
Sierran Cultural Revolution
World War I
Great Depression
World War II
1950 Charter
Great Basin controversy/Cross-Pacific affair
Cold War
The Disturbances
Contemporary era
Global War on Terrorism
Baja California crisis
Second Cold War
Abdication of Charles II
Assassination of Steven Hong
2017 Pawnee earthquake
Red Rock Castle crisis

The 2017 Pawnee earthquake was a magnitude 7.8 interplate earthquake that occurred at 4:17:33 am PST (12:17 UTC) on January 11, 2017, with the epicenter occurring on the Banning–Coachella Valley segment of the San Andreas fault just north of Pawnee, Inland Empire. Lasting approximately 2 minutes and 4 seconds, it was the third most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Sierra since modern record-keeping began in 1812. It was felt as far as the largely unaffected cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Salsipuedes. The earthquake caused widespread damage throughout Southwestern Sierra, killing at least 5,348 people, and triggering over 50 large fires and numerous landslides. A non-destructive tsunami also occurred, with noticeable waves traveling as far as Hawaii and Alaska. Alongside initial structural damage caused by the earthquake itself, the subsequent fires, flooding, and landslides that occurred following the event resulted in over $150 billion in property damages, and millions more in medical and insurance costs related directly to the earthquake. It is the single deadliest and costliest natural disaster in Sierran history. Sierran Prime Minister Daniel McComb described the aftermath, alongside the relatively recent assassination of former Prime Minister Steven Hong as, "the darkest and most painful hours in [Sierran] history since the Civil War."

Many cities in the Inland Empire including San Bernardino and Riverside were severely affected, and there was widespread structural damages in large parts of Porciúncula and the greater vicinity. Liquefaction occurred throughout the Greater Porciúncula Area; fires erupted from ruptured gas lines and downed electrical lines; significant flooding occurred in the High Desert due to breaches from the Porciúncula and Colorado River Aqueduct systems. The National Emergency and Risk Management Agency (NERMA) officially reported an initial confirmation of 5,270 deaths, over 50,000 injuries, and 783 people missing across eight provinces in connection to the earthquake and related incidents. It has since been updated to 5,348 deaths, 57,836 injuries, and 777 people missing. Early reports on the extent of structural collapses, damages, and destruction caused by the earthquake were conducted with estimates of roughly 2.5 million buildings being significantly affected by the disaster, and over 600,000 vehicles damaged or destroyed in the disaster.

Local geologists and scientists had anticipated a large, destructive earthquake occurring in Sierra for several years prior to the Pawnee earthquake. The general public were acutely aware of its potential manifestation as "The Big One", an earthquake which would have a level of magnitude greater than 7.0. Scientists predicted that an earthquake originating from the San Andreas Fault, particularly its southern section, was highly likely within the 21st century. The section was dormant as it had not seen any substantial activity or notable earthquakes since 1857 when one measuring 7.9 Mw hit Southern Sierra. Prior to the January 11 earthquake, Southern Sierra was overdue for an earthquake at the scale of the actual earthquake within 50 years of the scientists' initial projections. Scenarios of much more extreme magnitudes exceeding 8.0 were also feared, with the frequency of such an earthquake occurring once every 2,500 years in Sierra. Various measures were made by the government and businesses in earthquake preparation including retrofitting and updating old buildings, creating a national earthquake insurance plan, and more to minimize the adverse effects of an earthquake. In retrospect, NERMA Chair Tyler Woodson stated, "If we had not done more than we could, this earthquake would have cost more lives and money, and been exponentially worse."

After the earthquake, Parliament passed stricter regulations on building codes and fire safety, and increased funding in research on earthquakes and geological surveys in what the media described as "mobilizing from the wake-up call". First responders, law enforcement, government agencies, humanitarian relief organizations, and social media played a crucial and critical role in the immediate relief and recovery efforts. Additionally, the National Guard was deployed throughout Southland to render assistance to displaced families including food, water, and clothing, and to combat against looting and other potential crimes at high-risk areas. The economic effects of the earthquake were profound and immediate, with stock shares in the Porciúncula Stock Exchange dipping by 439 points. On January 12, the McComb Ministry requested over $175 billion for repairs and reconstruction across the region, although when economic losses caused by disruption of local industries are accounted for, damages exceed $220 billion. The Royal Monetary Authority of Sierra offered $210 billion to the local banking system in order to preserve pre-disaster levels of market stability. Parliament passed a comprehensive recovery and disaster relief bill on January 30, providing over $200 billion, which included appropriations for infrastructural updates.

Economists have estimated that it may take 10–25 years before the Sierran economy can fully recover to pre-earthquake levels. As of April 21, 2017, only 65% of the region had begun receiving some form of repairs and improvements, with the highest priority targeting historic buildings, roads, and public offices. About a fourth of the Southwest Corridor's residents continue to live without internet or phone, and nearly a million displaced Sierrans are living in temporary housing (mostly sponsored in the Styxie region, or are homeless), although the government has released an optimistic report that the structural repairs and improvements to Sierra's infrastructure will give the region a much-needed update. National, provincial, and city officials have promised to drastically improve telecommunications and transportation. A series of tightened regulations and contracting with the nation's top internet service providers have shifted the attention to retrofitting cities with advanced technology alongside standard repairs.



The mainshock earthquake hit the Sonoran Desert community of Pawnee about 115 miles (185 km) east of downtown Porciúncula. The hypocenter was located approximately 8.3 miles (13 km) below this point. Although the epicenter itself was closer to the unincorporated community of Thousand Palms, seismologists chose to name the earthquake after the much larger incorporated city of Pawnee. The Royal Office of Geologists determined that the exact location of the epicenter was directly situated on an unpaved road in Warden Oaks, a trailer park community in Thousand Palms.

The Anglo-American Geophysical Data Agency officially pinpoints the epicenter's location at 33°50′11″N 116°22′33″W, and the hypocenter at a depth of 8.32 miles (13.39 km). It occurred on a minor blind thrust fault just several dozens of meters away from the Banning–Coachella Fault, which is part of the much larger San Andreas Fault close by.

On January 12, a makeshift monument composed of small stones, pebbles, and sticks was erected roughly over where officials believe was the epicenter. Residents in the area have spoken favorably in constructing a monument at the site, to commemorate the loss incurred from the earthquake.

Affected areas

The Inland Empire was the most severely affected province, with substantial damage including total collapses of older buildings in the cities of Palm Springs, Pawnee, San Bernardino, Riverside, Redlands, Loma Linda, and more. Several sections of highly traveled highways including K.S. Route 60 were seriously damaged, including splintered roads, collapsed bridges, and fissured runways. Officials estimated that over 2.5 million residents experienced severe shaking, and felt the earthquake from 30 seconds to 2 minutes long. The San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains which ran alongside the San Andreas Fault suffered permanent deformations in some areas.

Significant, widespread damages was also apparent in the neighboring provinces of the Gold Coast and Orange, with damages in the former being significantly higher overall in comparison to all areas affected. Certain pockets of Porciúncula and surrounding communities were deeply affected, including cities in San Gabriel Valley and East Porciúncula where the ground was mostly soft-soiled, trapping and amplifying the seismic waves coming from Pawnee.

Moderate to negligible damage was reported in the Channel Islands, Kings, Central Valley, and Laguna which were further away from the epicenter, though shaking was felt as far away as Las Vegas in Clark, Phoenix in Maricopa, and Salsipuedes in Pacífico Norte.


One of the seismograms used to record the Pawnee earthquake.

The 7.8 magnitude (Mw) earthquake occurred when the mainshock struck on January 11, 2017 at 4:17 am PST (12:17 UTC). Numerous foreshocks including one measuring 6.2 Mw occurred days before, and hundreds of aftershocks continued after the earthquake. The 6.2 Mw foreshock occurred on January 10, 2017 at 6:42 pm PST (2:42 UTC) 23 miles southeast from the January 11 earthquake epicenter. Two other notable earthquakes, measuring at 5.1 Mw and 4.9 Mw respectively, occurred four days earlier than the main event. The intensity and duration of the quake varied across the Southland with the earthquake lasting considerably longer and shaking heavier in softer soils in certain valleys. Separate seismometer and accelerograph readings at different outposts independently verified the variability of the shaking throughout the affected region. Parts of the Inland Empire closest to the epicenter recorded peak ground accelerations that reached 1.89 g, while areas further away within the Greater Porciúncula Area saw accelerations up to 0.65 g.

The earthquake struck an hour before civil dawn, and at the time, almost all of the affected areas were under heavy rainfall. Although Sierra had endured a six-year drought, the 2016–17 winter saw a wetter season comparable to pre-drought conditions, especially in the north. While Southern Sierra continued to lag behind precipitation averages, the heavy, continuous storms the region experienced during the weeks leading up to the earthquake made hills more prone to sliding. In areas closest to the epicenter, there were flash flood watches and alerts at the time the earthquake struck.

Residents living in the Greater Porciúncula Area received automated SMS text warnings from QuakeAlert, an earthquake early warning system, about 6 seconds after the actual earthquake began. When seismometers began detecting the first P-wave emitting from the epicenter, preliminary messages were sent alerting cell phone users. Although most residents were still asleep at the time, the earthquake warning, as an emergency message, was programmed to override silent modes, waking many just moments before the shaking arrived in their areas. Post-earthquake reports of areas experiencing a Mercalli intensity of X (Extreme) were widespread, especially in areas closest to the epicenter, and areas with soft-soil ground. Parts of the Gold Coast, Orange, Laguna, and the Channel Islands assessed Mercalli intensities ranging from VI (Strong) to VIII (Severe).

A 6.6 Mw earthquake 15 miles due southeast of the epicenter struck several hours after the mainshock at around 11:32 pm PST (7:32 UTC), and a 5.9 Mw aftershock occurred the next day near Indio at 7:39 am PST (15:39 UTC). The former aftershock appeared to conform with Båth's Law, a well-known scaling law for earthquakes, which states that the difference between the magnitudes of the mainshock and first major aftershock is constant (at a mean of roughly 1.16). Numerous smaller aftershocks, some featuring magnitudes in excess of 4.0 Mw continued in the following days, with hundreds of more expected to occur in accordance to Omori's Law which states that the relationship between the rate of aftershocks and the time since the main quake is reciprocal. Consequently, related aftershocks will continue for years after the January 11 earthquake, although recurrence will decline in frequency over time.

Damages and casualties

Deaths by type
Cause of death No. of deaths Percentage
Fire 2,925 54.7%
Automobile/road accident 1,337 25.0%
Building collapse/damage 1,037 19.4%
Drowning 21 0.4%
Other 28 0.5%
Total 5,348 100%

The extent and intensity of damages caused by the earthquake were enormous including the practical decimation of entire communities and neighborhoods featuring older buildings. Estimates of the costs of damages were as high as hundreds of billions of KS dollars and did not account for the economic costs incurred from disrupting major economic activities in the region. Despite the government's decades-long work at trying to retrofit and update older buildings and roads to withstand stronger earthquakes, some 10 million buildings, over 42,000 miles of road, 1,200 miles of levees, and 5,500 miles of gas-lines were reportedly unfit for withstanding an earthquake the size that struck on January 11.

The Ministry of Justice estimated that as many as 2.5 million homes were either destroyed or seriously damaged from the initial earthquake, the aftershocks, fires, or the floods, and an estimated 600,000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed during the disaster. Many local businesses and stores were devastated due to damages to private property, and some became inoperable. The Ports of Porciúncula and Grands Ballons suffered slight damages, and the Porciúncula International Airport faced temporary shut-down as it underwent repair, delaying over 5,500 flights for the next three days, and stranding nearly 40,000 passengers, many of them being foreign-origin tourists.

On January 13, 2017, with hospitals and medical facilities still overwhelmed with patients affected by the disaster, the Ministry of Justice and NERMA released an early joint report confirming 5,348 deaths, 53,911 injuries (roughly a third of them being life-threatening or serious), and 1,202 people missing across 8 provinces. Seven injuries were confirmed from the Channel Islands and four from Pacífico Norte, thus increasing the extent and number of PSALTs affected by the earthquake with human harm to 10.

The most common cause of death for victims were not the earthquake itself but rather burns caused by the fires or explosions that followed the earthquake due to natural gas leaks from ruptured pipelines. Most deaths were victims aged 60 and up, who accounted for nearly 55% of all deaths in the disaster. Confirmed fatalities were primarily concentrated around low-income, older communities in Porciúncula, San Gabriel Valley, San Fernando Valley, and the Inland Empire. Fatalities from the 250+ car accidents that occurred during and after the earthquake was the next leading cause for death and injuries, accounting for 25% of the earthquake-related deaths.

The Association of Safe Homes and Families, a leading private organization for children's health and safety, estimates that over 600,000 children under the age of 18 had homes which were affected. It is reported that 430 children have been orphaned, and 1,681 children losing at least one parent. Public and private schools across the region were closed, and most school districts have continued to remain closed as of January 13, inadvertently disrupting instruction time and scheduling.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed the deaths of 140 foreigners across 23 nationalities, many of whom were on extended visa stays. Among those who were dead included citizens from China, Dixie, Hani, Japan, Korea, Michigan, Rainier, Russia, South Vietnam, the United Commonwealth, and the United Kingdom.



The earthquake forced the automatic shutdown of all 6 nuclear power plants in Sierra and 11 natural gas plants, which all required inspection in the days after. Over 14.3 million households were left without electricity as Southwest Electric, the principal provider in the region, closed down most of their electrical plants to undergo repair and inspection. Under normal conditions, Sierran electrical plants could produce up to 50 GW, but following the earthquake, the plants could only collectively output 43 GW. In an effort to provide limited electricity, Southwest Electric periodically turned on the electricity at select areas, while others would receive blackouts up to three blocks of four hours a day. Blackouts affected the Inland Empire, the Gold Coast, Orange, Laguna, Imperial, Kings, and parts of Central Valley.


Nearly all fires that occurred immediately during and after the earthquake were caused by gas lines damaged from buildings whose foundations were altered by the shaking, or underground gas lines which ruptured. Damage to both gas and water lines led to some streets burning and flooding simultaneously, and left tens of thousands of customers without access to gas or water. Other fires were caused by downed electrical lines. Disabled water supplies severely reduced firefighting capabilities, and was especially evident in the Inland Empire, San Gabriel Valley, and San Fernando Valley. As of January 17, 2017, all major fires have been fully contained by firefighters. The fires alone accounted for nearly 55% of all deaths caused from the disaster.

Public disorder

The earthquake triggered mass hysteria and panic throughout the region, and the inoperability of many essential services including water and electricity forced residents to desperate measures. A state of emergency was unilaterally declared by Prime Minister Daniel McComb and called for all law enforcement officials in the Southland to mobilize to "protect and serve this nation in distress". Reports of looting, robberies, and larceny was widespread in the Greater Porciúncula Area, and there were many reports of citizens in certain communities arming themselves against potential looters. Sierran media feared the potential outbreak of racially motivated violence in the streets, and other serious crimes in the absence of adequate law enforcement. In order to maintain public order and security, the National Guard, reserve members of the Sierran Crowned Armed Forces, and police officers in riot gear were deployed to "high-risk" areas while standard officials from NERMA were deployed in "low-risk" areas, a distinction that was later heavily criticized. A perimeter surrounding Downtown Porciúncula, the National Mall, and the Occidental Palace was completely barricaded off from public access, and major businesses dispatched private security forces to combat against possible attacks or robberies.

For several weeks, some communities were placed under mandatory curfews and supervision by military forces and civilian law enforcement as essential services were being restored and major, critical repairs were being made. Communities where close supervision continued to be in effect for a prolonged period of time included the following: East Porciúncula, South Porciúncula, Santa Fe Springs, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Compton, Pico Rivera, Alhambra, Rosemead, El Monte, Montebello, Downey, Bell Gardens, San Bernardino, Moreno Valley, and Hemet. The last of these towns were lifted from lockdown by April of that year.


The earthquake struck during Sierra's wet season, and at a time when an unusually high storm surge occurred in the midst of Sierra's six-year long drought. For several weeks leading up to the earthquake, Western Sierra experienced heavy rainfall and snowpack, restoring some areas to pre-drought conditions. While much of the affected region was still in "severe" drought, the conditions were wet enough to trigger the numerous landslides that occurred following the earthquake, and flooding in certain areas. Several levees along the Colorado River Aqueduct breached, causing large flooding in huge swaths in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. Although no dams were destroyed, Barker Dam, Diamond Valley Dam, and others were moderately damaged by the earthquake, and required immediate attention. Flooding caused by broken water pipes were also common, swamping entire thoroughfares and other streets.


Due to the large distance between the epicenter and the Pacific Ocean sea floor, a large tsunami did not develop. Had the same earthquake occurred near the coast, a large tsunami could have formed and threatened over 100,000 people living along at-risk, unprotected shorelines. It is believed that small landslides and sediment displacement along the Santa Barbara Channel was responsible for the tsunami. A non-destructive tsunami however, arrived in Sierra about 3 hours after the earthquake, with waves reaching six feet higher than normal. Slightly larger waves (ranging from 8 to 14 feet) arrived in Hawaii, Hani, Australia, and other parts of the Pacific Rim.


The earthquake significantly slowed down the otherwise healthy growth in the Sierran economy. The damages caused by the earthquake caused major complications for the first few months, and as of late April 2017, there are still many areas without internet or phone, although most areas have had their electricity and water restored. Damage was highest in older, poorer neighborhoods, and as a result, tens of thousands of low-income families required government subsidized housing to avoid homelessness. Parliament passed a broad range of legislation ranging from emergency funding to stricter building codes. One such law included the Building Disaster Preparedness Act of 2017, which required all new buildings (including retrofitted and remodeled buildings) to be built to survive a 9.0-magnitude earthquake (i.e., not collapsing). The Sierran government has worked closely with the Chilean government, which have handled many earthquake much like Pawnee's in the past. The Chilean government dramatically improved its earthquake preparedness and response after the disastrous earthquake in 2010, and increased awareness and education among its populace in earthquake safety.

Government and humanitarian response

In accordance to the National Disaster Response Plan, local governments were responsible for initial disaster response and planning, while NERMA was responsible for managing resources and logistics. NERMA worked closely with private humanitarian organizations in assisting civilians, and deployed tented health clinics in select regions to service people with food, water, medicine, and clothing. A network of civilian volunteers who had previous training and were specifically prepared for disasters such as this were also mobilized to help local government officials, and chaperone fellow citizens to disaster response locations.

By command from the Prime Minister, the Sierran Crowned Armed Forces and the National Guard was deployed to render assistance and security, and were empowered by the National Security and Disaster Relief Act of 2004, to detain and send disruptive or dangerous civilians by force, and to send them in impromptu detention centers before processing them, and sending them to relevant law enforcement agencies. The Sierra Southwest Command established the Joint Task Force Pawnee (JTFP), based out of Fort Irwin, with Royal Army Lieutenant General Shane Brady as commander, as the military's official on-scene mission in disaster response. National Guard troops from all PSAs and territories were dispatched to the Southland, and volunteer forces from the Conference of American States' Joint Anglo-American Command were also called for assistance.

On January 13, Minister of Defense Kenneth O'Conner was designated as the leader of the national disaster response efforts, and took over all response and relief operations at the local, provincial, and federal level. O'Conner approved NERMA's decision to provide over 500,000 trailers and temporary housing units to applicants, and commissioned a coordinated study among Sierra's top scientists and geologists to investigate the effects of the earthquake, and develop long-term solutions to prevent future crises of this scale after large earthquakes.

The Sierran Red Cross, Food in America Initiative, United Charities, Worldwide Peace Fund, Anglo-American Baptist Convention, Catholic Charities, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and other organizations pooled in the collective humanitarian effort in providing relief for disaster victims. The organizations accumulated a total of $725 million in donations within the first week from donors around the world. Many proceeds went directly to support with disaster relief operations and to contribute towards reconstruction of destroyed communities.

Media coverage

There was extensive coverage of the earthquake by Anglo-American and international media outlets, and news of the disaster dominated headlines for over a week. Representatives from over 120 different news organizations were assembled throughout Southland to report and document the disaster within 48 hours. The role of the media in the disaster relief was crucial as they served as a reliable link between civilians and the outside world, and worked closely with the Sierran government. Eyewitness accounts and documentation on social media sites by victims also enhanced coverage depth on the disaster. The media was also criticized for their disproportionate attention towards victims in South Porciúncula, and were accused of negatively portraying the area as lawless and violent. Although the area was among the heaviest hit and was one of the poorest communities in the region, and contained one of the highest concentrations of African and Hispanic Sierrans, the incidences of crime was not as high as suggested by some media outlets. In one instance, Eagle Broadcasting Network circulated a hoax picture of juvenile teens beating an elderly woman, purporting that it was from the area. It was later debunked as a leaked still image of the upcoming 2018 film, Anarchy Down, which was anonymously uploaded onto image boards and mistakenly picked up by bloggers as an actual photograph.

International response and reactions

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sierra was offered assistance from 169 countries and 30 international organizations. Condolences and humanitarian aid were provided, and worldwide charities and solidarity funds were created to support the victims of the Pawnee earthquake. Sierran expatriates, humanitarian organizations, and individuals from throughout the world helped in the initial international response to the disaster. The League of Nations, whose headquarters are based in Porciúncula, provided assistance through its adjunct bodies including LN Human Aid and LN Peace Forces. Various space agencies provided humanitarian satellite imagery to aid search and rescue missions, and to assess the totality of damages in the affected region. A special coalition comprised of the Confederate States, Rainier, New England, and the United Commonwealth, as well as other members of the Conference of American States, participated in an organized, coordinated international effort to assist.

In response to the outpouring of support from the international community, Prime Minister Daniel McComb stated on January 17, "The Sierran people will never forget the compassion they have received during the past few days from the world, and cannot express enough their sincerest gratitude of love and fellowship that has followed in the wake of confusion and sadness. In moments like these, it shows the universal condition of human suffering, and our unity as a race in overcoming these everyday struggles."

See also