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Seismic Risk Perception in Al-Marj, Libya: A Case Study after the 1963 Earthquake

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Document pages: 18 pages

Abstract: Individual beliefs, knowledge, and perception play a vital role in understanding and coping with the consequences of earthquakes. These perceptions then mold the broader perceptions of risk and danger held by communities, which ultimately create public policy. This survey study was designed and conducted to assess the perceptions of seismic hazard and risk of earthquake survivors and residents in Al-Marj, Libya—a city razed in a 1963 tremor. In 2019, 364 earthquake survivors and residents were surveyed for their knowledge and perception of earthquakes. Surveys were conducted in Arabic and included demographic and narrative questions in addition to Likert-scaled responses. A number of predictable, surprising, and valuable correlations were found. It was found that during earthquakes most respondents prayed to Allah, or did nothing, in comparison to escape, seeking shelter, or running for help. The majority believed their neighborhoods were unsafe while questions illiciting some aspect of quake recurrence caused a complete refusal to answer; they commented “I do not know” or “only God knows”. Most respondents did not consider preparation to be important, but younger respondents were relatively more prepared. Surprisingly, highly educated respondents were less prepared, however, they also attributed earthquakes to tectonic slipping and not divine retaliation or retribution. However, less-educated respondents stated “I do not know”, “Allah punishes”, or “Allah tests the believers”. Most participants considered themselves well-informed about earthquakes from popular media sources (internet, TV, magazines). These findings were vital in gaining an insight into hazard perception and high-risk behavior in a seismically active region like Libya. When natural hazard recurrence (i.e. earthquakes) are better understood, then the potential consequences of injury, damages, and deaths may be assessed, and an overall plan to produce sustainable disaster management strategies and decrease risk can be created and implemented.

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