Earthquake and carelessness

Once again the news features people who have died in a school building and because a hospital collapsed.
They did not die because of Earthquake. Earthquakes don't kill. No! I'm not an idiot. I'm an architect.
I should qualify my statement, Earthquakes don't kill unless a deep rupture opens directly beneath people, as in the time of Moses to Korah in the wilderness.
What often kills people are buildings which are not designed and constructed to resist the forces generated in earthquake.
Buildings don't just happen, and they are not all equal. For every building individuals who make decisions are involved and are therefore responsible.
The worst kind of building technology for quake zones is un-reinforced masonry. Poorly constructed reinforced concrete isn't much better. Even well designed and constructed concrete has a limit. Flexible steel with connections designed to resist a quake is better, but there is always a limit.
The weight of stuff humans in the developed and developing world accumulate in buildings is much greater than any time in the past. Even Japan, which in traditional culture built in earthquake resistant lightweight timber, is building with steel and concrete. There is an unwritten, unexpressed desire for the magnificence of Ancient Greece and Rome. The world has inherited this through the global influence of empire building. How many nations have magnificent multi-storey un-reinforced masonry buildings from their colonial era?
The architecture of the cities of America has not reduced this influence.
Why did the ancient Greeks and Romans, also in an earthquake prone area, chose to build in masonry? A number of reasons: timber was getting scarce due to de-forestation for heating and cooking and poor land management practice. And timber buildings, though beautiful, in general, aren't very impressive. Timber has limits in terms of the height of a structure you can make from it. It also has span limits. It rots and, in a fire, timber is fuel. In addition, the masonry dome created impressive voids not equalled until the modern era. And stone, brick and concrete feels like it should last forever. So cities built in masonry come from the aspiration of people for permanence.
A fellow architect from Papua New Guinea lamented to me that his people were idiots as they preferred to build with concrete, blocks and steel roof, even though the traditional thatch-like roof and wicker walls with a suspended floor was better adapted to the climate. The issue was that having a masonry building was about status. The wealthy Europeans had such buildings. That the wealthy Europeans needed air-conditioners, merely complicated matters, the locals wanted that too. But I digress.
All of history shows us that the apparent solidity and permanence of stone, brick and concrete is, in the event of an earthquake, fragile and deadly.
We may think 'set in concrete' means it's fixed, but concrete is nothing without the right mixture and the right amount of steel hidden in it. If you are in a country known for slovenly construction, in a masonry and concrete building, in a ground (or first floor for the fit), if you feel the earth move, and if you are not within close proximity to an exit, pick up a heavy object, break a window clear the glass and exit. Don't stop to look back. Up to 3m above ground fit people may exit a second floor, if there be any hand hold, then drop to the street. This advice may save your life. If you can't get out fast, the safest place is in a door opening (don't block it if is an exit) near a place with lots of masonry walls in 2 directions. You can tell it's masonry if you thump it and it hurts your hand. Thump some walls today. Get to know the difference, it could save your life one day. I was told this by an engineer. See sketch.
Note: CAUTION!!! Always remember the only safe place in an earthquake is a long way from buildings! (in coastal areas also go to high ground).

Good engineering knowledge is available world wide. When it comes to building schools and hospitals they are engineered. The Associated Press reported in the Jerusalem Post regarding the recent earthquake in Indonesia,

The school building's construction was typical of the region, which is located in one of the poorest countries in the world. Most buildings are not made to withstand earthquakes, and even the tough ones were badly damaged in an earthquake in 2007.
There is virtually no enforcement of building regulations in Indonesia, a nation of 235 million people prone to natural and man-made disasters.

That the country is poor is no excuse. For houses perhaps, but not for the hospital. Well designed and mixed concrete is not much more expensive than badly made concrete. A multi-storey building has huge costs beyond the costs of the structural frame.
Ignorance is not an excuse either. They have regulations in Indonesia, but it appears designers and builders don't keep the law, and, authorities don't enforce the law. Why?
Fundamentally, it comes down to a lack of care for human life.
In the majority of the developed world building regulation is enforced to ensure the safety of those who build the building, those who occupy the building and even those who maintain or demolish the building. Authorities will require professional designers, especially engineers. And every professional is assumed to have a duty of care. It doesn't go away.
As an architect it is impressed on us that people's lives are in our hand. Compliance with regulation is one way to show we worked to the best of current knowledge. Why then don't they keep their regulations?
The majority of Indonesia's people are Muslim. It is the crux of the issue. The Australian reported "A message from God in Sumatra Earthquake"

Another man, a Harji, meaning he has taken the trip to Mecca, explains what the sun was saying: "It is a symbol of pain given to us from Allah, through nature".
This means, as well, that the earthquake itself was not merely the shifting of tectonic plates.
"We are being punished for not being devout enough," said the Harji.
This is what people said after the Boxing Day tsunami hit this same coastline in 2004 and, just as it was then, the people have the same strangely composed reaction to what has happened _ even if their loved ones are still lying beneath the rubble.
Wednesday afternoon's earthquake was God's will.

This attitude that the death of people is God's will fits with the a quote from a local in the area in the Associated Press coverage of the event (in the Jerusalem Post)

Zul was more philosophical. "I regret I couldn't save her," he said, "but I have to accept that as her destiny."

It it really God's will and a persons destiny to die and untimely death in a shoddily made building, because some owner was either too slack or money conscious to follow regulations? If it was found that the regulation had not been followed, it is negligence on the part of the procurement team and possibly the owner as well.
But, on reflection, I realise mine is a culturally biased moral position. You see, I value life. I come from a culture that values life.
I come from a culture that understands what I mean when I say 'I am my brother's keeper'. We are not as Cain who kill and hope to get away with it. Taking another's life in hate, or by accident, has a cost.
As an architect, I saw early the parallel with the Torah requirement for restitution with professional liability. We write on drawings “make good”, meaning 'repair what was damaged' in the building works. A phrase which comes from the English translation of the Torah. The ready use of the phrase a key to why the idea of responsibility and restitution is so prevalent also in Protestant-Anglo cultures.
The Quran showed me the difference of light from darkness. I found no such similar requirement for responsibility for life and restitution. I found passages of mercy for sinners. This sounded like a un-informed borrowing from, the then 500 year old, Christian theology. But they forgot to borrow also the requirement for repentance. The examples in the Tanakh show that even after repentance we may still suffer for the wrong we do.
A culture that don't care enough for life, will cause death and suffering. To blame God for human lack of due care and diligence is perverse. The Australian reported many were killed in regional areas in masonry houses, and the people had no help to rescue people in the rubble. A local from this area was reported as saying,

"I don't think anything of these officials, they just look after themselves," said Mr Kato, 54.

And there is the difference between life and death. There is the difference between light and darkness.