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'Reckless' quake claims not helping, says Smith

Published: 4:12PM Sunday March 20, 2011 Source: ONE News

Geotechnical engineer Nick Smith has hit out at natural disaster claims by Ken Ring as "bogus", saying that future decisions on risk need to be based on rational science.

The Nelson MP said it is "reckless and irresponsible for people like Ken Ring to be speculating on the timing of future major earthquakes with no scientific basis".

Smith told the NZ Skeptics lunch in Christchurch today that "Cantabrians have been through enough trauma without charlatans preying on people's natural fears".

Last year, Auckland-based mathematician, "Moonman" Ring, had warned the perigee moon over the weekend will cause another major earthquake in Christchurch.

The lunar forecaster has also warned of severe storms.

His predictions have caused some residents to move from the city in fear and some have delayed their return home.

"From my own family, me and my parents, we all camped together now. They don't want to go back to Christchurch just because they believe Ken Ring is right," said refugee Ahmad Chakari.

Ring has also claimed he predicted Christchurch's deadly February 22 quake by studying the moon.

Many critics say there's no scientific proof to back Ring's claims.

Smith said scientists and engineers cannot give black and white assurances on if and when another major quake may happen, but false claims only make the situation worse.

However, science and engineering has improved the survival rate from earthquakes.

The Napier earthquake in 1931 killed 256 people in Napier and Hastings, out of a population of 27,000 (approximately one in 100).

In comparison, the similar sized Christchurch earthquake is estimated to have killed 180 out of a population of 375,000 (approximately one in 2000).

"We can continue to reduce the risks and save more lives but, as the tragic events in Japan have shown, we can never eliminate all loss of life from major earthquakes," said Smith.

Improve our knowledge and understanding of earthquakes, as well as design of infrastructure, is key to reducing risk, he said.

"Not in the scaremongering from the likes of Ken Ring."