Modified Mercalli (MM) Scale of earthquake intensity (after Eiby, 1966)

MM I  Not felt by humans, except in especially favourable circumstances, but birds and animals may be disturbed. Reported mainly from the upper floors of buildings more than ten storeys high. Dizziness or nausea may be experienced. Branches of trees, chandeliers, doors, and other suspended systems of long natural period may be seen to move slowly. Water in ponds, lakes, reservoirs, etc., may be set into seiche oscillation.

MM II  Felt by a few persons at rest indoors, especially by those on upper floors or otherwise favourably placed. The long-period effects listed under MMI may be more noticeable.

MM III  Felt indoors, but not identified as an earthquake by everyone. Vibrations may be likened to the passing of light traffic. It may be possible to estimate the duration, but not the direction. Hanging objects may swing slightly. Standing motorcars may rock slightly.

MM IV  Generally noticed indoors, but not outside. Very light sleepers may be awakened. Vibration may be likened to the passing of heavy traffic, or to the jolt of a heavy object falling or striking the building. Walls and frame of building are heard to creak. Doors and windows rattle. Glassware and crockery rattle. Liquids in open vessels may be slightly disturbed. Standing motorcars may rock, and the shock can be felt by their occupants.

MM V  Generally felt outside, and by almost everyone indoors. Most sleepers awakened. A few people frightened. Direction of motion can be estimated. Small unstable objects are displaced or upset. Some glassware and crockery may be broken. Some windows crack. A few earthenware toilet fixtures crack. Hanging pictures move. Doors and shutters swing. Pendulum clocks stop, start, or change rate.

MM VI  Felt by all. People and animals alarmed.  Many run outside. Difficulty experienced in walking steadily. Slight damage to masonry D. Some plaster cracks or falls. Isolated cases of chimney damage. Windows and crockery broken. Objects fall from shelves, and pictures from walls. Heavy furniture moves. Unstable furniture overturns. Small school bells ring. Trees and bushes shake, or are heard to rustle. Material may be dislodged from existing slips, talus slopes, or slides.

MM VII  General alarm. Difficulty experienced in standing. Noticed by drivers of motorcars. Trees and bushes strongly shaken. Large bells ring. Masonry D cracked and damaged. A few instances of damage to Masonry C. Loose brickwork and tiles dislodged. Unbraced parapets and architectural ornaments may fall. Stone walls crack. Weak chimneys break, usually at the roof-line. Domestic water tanks burst. Concrete irrigation ditches damaged. Waves seen on ponds and lakes. Water made turbid by stirred-up mud. Small slips, and caving-in of sand and gravel banks.

MM VIII  Alarm may approach panic. Steering of motor cars affected. Masonry C damaged, with partial collapse. Masonry B damaged in some cases. Masonry A undamaged. Chimneys, factory stacks, monuments, towers, and elevated tanks twisted or brought down. Panel walls thrown out of frame structures. Some brick veneers damaged. Decayed wooden piles break. Frame houses not secured to the foundation may move. Cracks appear on steep slopes and in wet ground. Landslips in roadside cuttings and unsupported excavations.  Some tree branches may be broken off.

MM IX  General panic. Masonry D destroyed. Masonry C heavily damaged, sometimes collapsing completely. Masonry B seriously damaged. Frame structures racked and distorted. Damage to foundations general. Frame houses not secured to the foundations shift off. Brick veneers fall and expose frames. Cracking of the ground conspicuous. Minor damage to paths and roadways. Sand and mud ejected in alluviated areas, with the formation of earthquake fountains and sand craters. Underground pipes broken. Serious damage to reservoirs.

MM X  Most masonry structures destroyed, together with their foundations. Some well-built wooden buildings and bridges seriously damaged. Dams, dykes, and embankments seriously damaged. Railway lines slightly bent. Cement and asphalt roads and pavements badly cracked or thrown into waves. Large landslides on river banks and steep coasts. Sand and mud on beaches and flat land moved horizontally. Large and spectacular sand and mud fountains. Water from rivers, lakes, and canals thrown up on the banks.

MM XI  Wooden frame structures destroyed. Great damage to railway lines. Great damage to underground pipes.

MM XII  Damage virtually total. Practically all works of construction destroyed or greatly damaged. Large rock masses displaced. Lines of slight and level distorted. Visible wave-motion of the ground surface reported. Objects thrown upwards into the air.

Categories of non-wooden construction

Masonry A  Structures designed to resist lateral forces of about 0.1g, such as those satisfying the New Zealand Model Building By-law, 1955. Typical buildings of this kind are well reinforced by means of steel or ferro-concrete bands, or are wholly of ferro-concrete construction. All mortar is of good quality and the design and workmanship are good. Few buildings erected prior to 1935 can be regarded as Masonry A.

Masonry B  Reinforced buildings of good workmanship and with sound mortar, but not designed in detail to resist lateral forces.

Masonry C  Buildings of ordinary workmanship, with mortar of average quality. No extreme weakness, such as inadequate bonding of the corners, but neither designed nor reinforced to resist lateral forces.

Masonry D  Buildings with low standards of workmanship, poor mortar, or constructed of weak materials like mud brick and rammed earth. Weak horizontally.

Topic contact: Last updated: February 25, 2014