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1,800 Portland buildings not ready for 'the big one'

A screen capture of a portion of a map showing downtown Portland. The orange-colored buildings are the ones that would not survive a major earthquake. (Map: City of Portland. Click on the link below to fully explore the map.)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A new map released by the city of Portland shows hundreds of buildings officials say wouldn't survive an earthquake if 'the big one' hits. Many of those buildings are in the heart of downtown.

"It's a little scary, not very comforting to hear," Portland resident Megan Corning said.

After looking through the map, she's reconsidering where to live.

"I'm going to be moving soon, and it looks like I am going to want to stay on the east side," Corning said.

Portland's Emergency Management director Carmen Merlo says the danger is real.

"The problem with these buildings is that they lack steel reinforcement and they lack structural connections that allow them to withstand seismic shaking," Merlo said.

Among the most vulnerable buildings are schools, apartment complexes and office buildings, places where thousands of people work or live.

"They can kill you. It doesn't take a lot of significant injury to happen. Imagine one brick falling off one story and hitting you. It will cause significant damage, if not death," Merlo said.

Merlo believes it is just a matter of time before a big one hits. She hopes the city can work with building owners to get ahead of the problem.

"You can retrofit these buildings and there is many ways to do it. The concern we have is we don't know when the earthquake will come, so now is the time to retrofit these buildings," Merlo said.

Merlo and her team are using the map to help come up with a plan to present to the city to make it mandatory for all buildings to be retrofitted.

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