An earthquake is a sudden and rapid shaking of the ground caused by the shifting of rocks beneath the earth’s surface, or by volcanic or magmatic activity in the earth. Earthquakes strike suddenly, without warning, and can occur at any time. They can lead to death, injuries, property damage, loss of shelter and livelihoods and disruption of critical infrastructure. Most deaths are due to buildings collapsing or to secondary hazards, such as fires, tsunamis, flooding, landslides and release of chemicals or toxic materials. 

A survivor climbs out of the ruins of buildings in Bhaktapur, Nepal following the devastating earthquake in April 2015

Emergency appeals

Do you know how to prepare for and stay safe during an earthquake?

Do's and don'ts

  • Identify safest places inside and outside your building
  • Secure loose items that could fall, slide or collide
  • Don't build on unstable or steep ground, or directly on fault lines
  • Build and maintain your property with earthquakes in mind
  • Practise earthquake drills in your home, office or children's school
  • If you are indoors during an earthquake: drop, cover and hold on
  • Expect and watch out for aftershocks
  • Avoid the coastline when the quake stops in case of tsunami
  • Don't light any flames until you have checked for gas leaks

Watch: how to protect yourself during an earthquake