Report: Quake would devastate Bay Area's economy

Roughly 87,000 Bay Area companies with 1.5 million employees conduct business in communities likely to suffer the most severe effects of 6.9 magnitude earthquake along the Hayward fault.

On Monday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — for the first time ever — released a report on the impact of a major Bay Area earthquake on the labor market, something seismology experts say has a very good chance of occurring in the coming decades.

“You’re talking about a very catastrophic, severe event in the same ballpark as a [Hurricane] Katrina event,” said Tom Brocher, a coordinator with the USGS Earthquake Hazards Investigations unit.

The 1.5 million employees in the East Bay, The City and along the Peninsula make $25 billion in wages quarterly and the potential for economic loss reported was larger than expected, said Richard Holden, of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The significant economic loss for the region could be very dramatic, maybe even for the state and maybe even beyond,” Holden said.

The Bay Area has three major fault lines — Hayward, Calaveras and San Andreas — that are part of the San Andreas fault system. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Geological Survey and California Geological Survey used the Hayward fault for the report because it has a 27 percent chance of experiencing a major earthquake by 2032.

Officials also chose the fault because Oct. 21, 2008, marks the 140th anniversary of the Hayward earthquake, an estimated 7.0 magnitude quake that killed 30 people in the Bay Area.

Only small portions of the greater San Francisco and Peninsula area would see moderate damage from a 6.9-magnitude quake on the fault. But in an area concentrated in the Marina, North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, Financial District and South of Market areas — with about 12,220 businesses — strong shaking from a 6.9-magnitude earthquake would create slightly more severe damage.

Those businesses employ 239,022 workers who make approximately $4.96 billion in wages each quarter.

In San Mateo County, 753 businesses located primarily in Brisbane, the Oyster Point area in South San Francisco and Foster City could experience moderate damage, according to the report. Any damage limiting business operations at those companies could affect 24,249 employees and cost them potentially $653 million in quarterly wages.

Such a quake could also cause an estimated 400,000 Bay Area residents to lose their homes and, officials said, 100,000 of those would need shelter.

dsmith@examiner.com

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