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During the Sichuan earthquake earlier this month, the ground suddenly shifted a gaping five feet, or about shoulder height of an adult. That huge displacement and the rapid ground motions that followed could explain the extensive and tragic damage in China, an engineer said today.
"Even though the findings are preliminary, they can be used. It's better to have this information than no information," said Mario Chavez, professor of seismological engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City.
His results also showed the ground motions reached velocities of at least 2.1 feet per second (65 cm per second, or about 1.4 mph - that might seem slow, but consider if a heavy object struck at that speed). In size and speed, the motions are similar to those that were recorded at the epicenter of an 8.1-magnitude earthquake that killed 30,000 people in Mexico City in 1985, Chavez said.