Preliminary results of a global project to assess earthquake risk are being presented at a meeting in the United States this week (3–4 June).
The Global Earthquake Model (GEM) — launched in 2006 and expected to be fully functional and freely available by 2013 — will calculate risks of loss of life based on the geology, building types and regulations in different regions of the world (see Global Earthquake Model merits support).
Eventually, local officials will be able to use GEM to upload local data and calculate risk for their areas.
Researchers say they developed computer programmes based on existing models that can quickly predict the risk of loss of human life as a result of earthquakes.
"We didn't think we'd get that far [during the pilot stage]," said Helen Crowley, a civil engineer at the European Centre for Training and Research in Earthquake Engineering, Pavia, Italy.
But some critics said that it will be challenging to communicate these results to people most at risk. The project has so far not considered these end-users, said Brian Tucker, the founder of California-based non-profit organisation GeoHazards International.
Rui Pinho, GEM's secretary general, said he hoped the project would help bring safe construction rules to communities at risk in developing countries.