Rapid urbanization, the interconnection of economies and increasing dependence on technology makes modern society ever more vulnerable to natural disasters. This is particularly true when considering the growth of so-called mega cities (defined by the United Nations as metropolitan areas with populations exceeding 10 million), the majority of which are in the developing world. This has led to the recognition of the importance of early warning systems as one means of mitigating the potential human and economic losses resulting from natural disasters (e.g., International Strategy for Disaster Reduction 2005; United Nations 2006).

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Considering earthquakes, many areas...

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