Ground Zero Manila: Will you survive a nuke blast?

Posted at 03/27/2012 3:28 AM | Updated as of 03/27/2012 6:11 AM
GROUND ZERO MANILA. A simulation of a North Korean nuclear strike in the Philippines, with the heart of Manila as ground zero. Courtesy of Alex Wellerstein's Nuke Map

MANILA, Philippines - Amid the tension over North Korea's long-range rocket launch that has the Philippines in its trajectory, ever wondered if you will survive a nuclear strike?

Wonder no more, because scientists and mappers are using the precision of Google Maps to do exactly that, showing which cities -- right down to the level of streets and neighborhoods -- will be decimated in the event of a nuclear apocalypse.

Two websites, wouldisurviveanuke.com and nuclearsecrecy.com, let you see if you'll get vaporized if a nuclear blast occurs near your place.

They let users simulate explosions of real-world nuclear devices in their ground zero of choice to see if they will be vaporized within the blast zone.

The American Institute of Physics' Alex Wellerstein, who created the nuclearsecrecy.com map, has data and calculations on various nations' atomic weapons,  including North Korea's largest test with a 6-kiloton yield. The site's calculations are based on Carey Sublette's Nuclear Weapons FAQ and assume optimum burst height.

Here's what happens if you drop a 6-kiloton nuclear bomb right in the heart of Recto in Manila.

A large fireball will instantly vaporize a portion of a barangay on ground zero. The size of the nuclear fireball will depend on height of the detonation.

People on Avenida and Ongpin will then get blown away by a resulting air blast.

A half-kilometer area will be destroyed by the air blast. Concrete buildings will be flattened, with fatalities approaching 100%.

The green area in the map indicates the immediate area that gets fried by nuclear radiation, which will roast Tutuban, Lawton and Quiapo.

People in the area will get an immediate 500 rem radiation dose and between 50% and 90% of them will die from acute effects alone. Their deaths will take between several hours and several weeks.

People outside the immediate radiation zone are still not safe because the air blast earlier produced by the explosion will also reach them, with less intensity than near ground zero but still deadly. Most buildings will collapse while injuries and deaths will be widespread.

There's also the heat produced by the explosion.

The thermal radiation from the 6-kiloton blast will fry residential areas, commercial blocks, and landmarks like Mendiola, Lyceum, Intramuros and Tondo.

People in those areas will get third-degree burns. The heat also will set houses and buildings on fire.

"A convenient rule of thumb for estimating the short-term fatalities from all causes due to a nuclear attack is to count everyone inside the 5 psi blast overpressure contour around the hypocenter as a fatality. In reality, substantial numbers of people inside the contour will survive and substantial numbers outside the contour will die, but the assumption is that these two groups will be roughly equal in size and balance out. This completely ignores any possible fallout effects," says Sublette, as quoted by nuclearsecrecy.com.

If you're just outside ground zero, you have a chance of surviving the immediate nuclear explosion.

However, surviving the nuclear fallout  -- exposure to residual radioactive material dropping from the sky  -- is another issue.