A key measure of the earthquake problem in a country is the ratio of fatalities to population size. We propose that the new parameter earthquake fatality load per year objectively measures the level of the population suffering in seismically active countries, that is, it indicates the average annual cost in lives. We present a list of this new parameter for 35 seismically important countries with adequate data for this estimate. Among these countries, Ecuador, Lebanon, Haiti, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Portugal have experienced the greatest loads during the last five centuries. The earthquake fatality load decreases significantly as a function of time in the 18 countries with enough data for analysis. Major factors causing this may be improved resistance to shaking by the built environment, and migration of the rural population leaving weak buildings and occupying stronger ones in large cities.

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