Millions of earthquakes occur around the world each year. Most are too small or deep to cause significant problems. However, larger ones have the potential to cause serious injury and damage.
Explore this page to learn:
This page is for Australians planning to travel to a destination where earthquakes are common. If you're already travelling and need help, see what to do if there's been an earthquake.
Dangers and risks
In an earthquake, most people are injured or die from falling buildings, debris and fires. If the earthquake causes a tsunami, many deaths are from drowning.
If a major earthquake occurs, it is possible that the following will happen.
- The violent shaking can fracture structures. Weak building facades may collapse onto the streets. Glass windows and panels may shatter, and roof tiles may dislodge. Once weakened, buildings can collapse and trap or kill people inside.
- Electricity, water and gas may fail or be switched off. Earthquakes often damage water, gas and electricity lines. Ruptured gas lines can ignite, especially if the earthquake dislodged or exposed electrical wiring. Fallen powerlines may be a hazard.
- Sprinkler systems and fire alarms may trigger.
- Phone systems may shut down for significant periods after an earthquake. Both landlines and mobile services. You may not have internet access.
- A tsunami may occur in coastal areas or areas bordering large lakes. Tsunamis can happen with little warning.
- Aftershocks can occur in the minutes, days, weeks and even months after an earthquake. These may be stronger than the first tremor.
- Without running water and electricity, sanitation is an issue. Waterborne infectious diseases, including cholera, are common.
In developing countries, the impacts of an earthquake or tsunami may increase.
Poor building regulations and infrastructure may mean buildings and utilities are less able to withstand damage. Emergency responders may not have the level of training or resources as their counterparts in more developed nations.
Before you travel
- Read our travel advisory for your destination. For some, we provide advice and information on earthquake and tsunami risks.
- Subscribe for updates. We will email you when we update our advice for your destination. We can send critical alerts by text if you add your mobile number.
- Do your research. Find out how often your destination experiences earthquakes. And whether they're at risk of tsunamis. Know how effective their emergency response is.
- Get travel insurance. Make sure it covers you for cancellations or changes if there's an earthquake before you get there. Check if it covers you if an earthquake happens when you're there.
- Be cautious about booking accommodation in high-rise buildings. Especially in developing countries. Only book accommodation built to withstand earthquakes.
- If you're staying near the coast in an earthquake area, know the warning signs of a tsunami. You may only have minutes to get to safety. There may not be time for an official warning.
- Accommodation by the beach is at higher risk during a tsunami. Higher up the hill may be a wiser choice.
- Know what to do during an earthquake or tsunami to stay safe. Read our advice and that of your hotel and local emergency services.
Destinations where earthquakes and tsunamis are more common
Some destinations that Australians often travel to experience more frequent earthquakes. Some of these are:
- New Zealand
- United States, particularly California
This list isn't exhaustive. For more information, see the map of earthquake-prone areas (Global Seismic Hazard Assessment Program).
Living overseas in an earthquake-prone area
If you live in an area where earthquakes are common, plan ahead.
- Identify a room in your house or workplace that can be used as a shelter following a disaster. Water, food, and clean air are vital when sheltering in place.
- Have a basic emergency supply kit available at all times. Include items for individual needs, such as medications and infant formula.
- Have a pair of closed-toed shoes within reach of your bed to use if you must walk over debris and broken glass following a major earthquake.
Some countries provide advice on how to prepare for an earthquake, including how to prepare basic emergency kits and emergency plans, for example:
- Canada: Get prepared
- New Zealand: Get ready, Get thru
- United States: Ready.gov - Earthquakes
Follow the advice of local emergency services in the country you're in.
Learn more about earthquakes and tsunamis (Geoscience Australia).
- If you're already travelling and need help, see what to do if there's been an earthquake.
- Waterborne infectious diseases, including cholera, are common after an earthquake.
- Understand how and when we may help. Read the Consular Services Charter.
- Learn more about earthquakes, volcanic activity and tsunamis (Geoscience Australia).
- Choose a policy that covers you for earthquakes. Read the travel insurance buying guide (CHOICE)