You are here: Earth > LET'S EXPLORE The Earth > What causes an earthquake?

What causes an earthquake?

Buildings in a Japanese city start to collapse after an earthquake strikes.An earthquake is the trembling or shaking of the ground. It is caused by the sudden movement of the rocks in the Earth’s crust. This happens when the edge of one tectonic plate slides beneath or alongside another. The two plates sometimes lock together for a while, before the pressure becomes too great and the rocks suddenly snap apart. Shock waves travel out in all directions, causing the ground to shake.


Earthquake damage

The outbreak of fires is an ever-present danger in a city struck by an earthquake.A road cracks open after an earthquakeIt is mostly in towns and cities where earthquakes cause large loss of life. The sudden violent shaking of the ground may result in the collapse of buildings and bridges, roads splitting apart, pipes bursting and cables breaking. Landslides, fire and flooding also cause great damage.

Shock waves

Across the world there are about 100,000 earthquakes each year. Japan alone has about 5000.

Q-files now has new sections specially written for younger readers. They are: Living world, Earth, Science, Human body, Prehistoric life, Space, History, Geography and Technology.

Find the answer