If a powerful earthquake shook San Diego, anywhere from 100 to 2,000 people could die, warned a new study.
The preliminary study from the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) found that the Rose Canyon fault has the potential to produce a 6.9 magnitude earthquake that could also trigger a devastating tsunami.
Jorge Menese, the President of EERI, told NBC 7 that San Diego is not prepared for a calamitous earthquake of this size. Although it's impossible to predict exactly when a major quake may strike, he said the region should get ready.
"We still have many buildings that are vulnerable to earthquakes," said Menese. "There are some historic buildings that have not been retrofitted."
The number of potential deaths is an estimation based on the data, he explained. It would depend on a variety of factors.
The earthquake would potentially be felt from Del Mar all the way to Tijuana, according to the study. The epicenter is just a couple miles west of Del Mar, with the fault line running through the ocean and downtown San Diego.
Since the late 1800s, the epicenter has not moved. Once another earthquake strikes, the greatest force will vibrate through La Jolla, downtown San Diego and Tijuana.
Several other fault lines run through San Diego, but the study focused on the Rose Canyon fault because it goes through densely populated areas.
Menese clarified that the study does not predict when an earthquake will jolt the region. Instead, he hopes the data can be used to educate cities about creating emergency preparations for a worst-case scenario.
“This earthquake may happen tomorrow, may happen next week, may happen [in] the next ten years," added Menese. "We don’t know. But we know there will be an earthquake, and we have to be prepared for that."
Volunteers formed the ERRI group to raise awareness about the dangers posed by seismic activity. The next step is to push the City and the County of San Diego to develop a plan.