If an earthquake happens, will people underground be in more danger than people above ground or not? I can think of several pros and cons for each:

Stay underground Pros:

  • Minimum risk of communicable illness (people who are ill are staying home)

  • Babies already born kept safe from injury (all babies are put in a sling to hold them in the cradle position)

  • Most familiar territory, so less stress

Stay underground Cons:

  • Aspiration pneumonia (not an illness but nevertheless a concern, dust being the main cause)

  • Risk of hypoxia in tunnels

  • Risk of injury anywhere, but especially in tunnels (fractures, myalgia (muscle strain), organ failure due to loss of oxygen)

Above ground Pros:

  • Quick evacuation

  • Knowing the duration of the earthquake

  • No aspiration pneumonia

Above ground Cons:

  • Higher risk of injury than underground (fractures, impaled, burns)

  • Babies aren't safe (could jump out of sling and get injured due to the shaking)

  • Higher risk of illness (bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic, doesn't matter)

Universal Cons:

  • Nausea (in already nauseous people, this could be dangerous)

  • Preterm labor and miscarriage (stress increased during pregnancy)

  • Not able to breastfeed (same thing, stress can dry up milk supply)

So are people underground in more danger or not? It seems from my pros and cons that despite being able to quickly evacuate above ground that underground is safer.

I would think the shaking would be worse underground since underground you are closer to the source of the earthquake. This would by itself make underground more dangerous.


1 Answer 1


I think that staying underground would be a terrible idea. Underground there is a huge chance of the tunnel or cave or area underground collapsing, and then everyone staying there is dead.

While aboveground is dangerous, when a couple people die there, the rest of the group can keep going. Underground, when a couple people die, most causes of death (disease, tunnel collapse, etc.) will cause the rest of the people to die as well.

Aboveground you can move as the situation around you changes. A big suggestion during earthquakes is to move to higher ground. Underground is the exact opposite of this advice.

What if there is aid coming, or rescue workers trying to help people? Underground you are hidden and cannot be helped.

These are just a few reasons, but I feel that aboveground is always going to be the best choice.

  • $\begingroup$ But I took into consideration ill people staying home and since they are used to underground, it will stress them less if they stay underground. And tunnels are much more at risk of collapse than chambers(Chambers have more space and thus more support(dried mud, rocks, on surface, wood and grass). Plus, not everybody underground will die. Some will be strong enough to dig themselves out of the collapse despite injury(in fact this is 1 factor into the muscle strain risk). $\endgroup$
    – Caters
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Caters depends, but even 3-5 meters of collapse could be a big big problem even in case you have something to use as tools in section where you in. even if you have tons of tnt and when you can use it, which may a bit problematic. Depends on situation - but really not good. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 18:13

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