Image: "10.5"
Shane Harvey  /  NBC
Rebecca Jenkins and Erin Karpluk run for cover in a scene from the NBC miniseries "10.5," which tells the story of an unprecedented West Coast earthquake. Scientists reacted to a screening of the show with a mixture of mirth and alarm.
updated 4/12/2004 2:23:13 PM ET 2004-04-12T18:23:13

An upcoming TV miniseries about an impossibly large earthquake that strikes the West Coast has left seismic experts shaking their heads at what they called gross inaccuracies.

In NBC’s disaster epic “10.5,” massive quakes topple the Golden Gate Bridge, send the Pacific Ocean sloshing over Los Angeles, swallow trucks and chase trains. An attempt to stop the temblors by fusing the San Andreas fault with a series of atomic explosions fails.

Seismologists who have previewed “10.5” expressed both alarm and mirth. A magnitude-10.5 earthquake would be 8,000 times more powerful than the 6.7 Northridge quake that killed 72 people in Southern California in 1994.

The faults that underlie California would not be capable of generating such a huge temblor, experts said. Such a quake could be theoretically possible elsewhere, but the largest earthquake in recorded history was a magnitude 9.5 off Chile in 1960.

'Complete science fantasy'
“The production is blatantly inconsistent with everything we know about earthquakes,” said Lucy Jones, scientist in charge of the U.S. Geological Survey office in Pasadena. “It’s complete science fantasy, but as long as people know that nothing about it could be true, they can sit back and enjoy it.”

Howard Braunstein, executive producer of the miniseries, acknowledged that the film is meant as “fun entertainment” and plays loose with the facts.

Asked whether he consulted scientists in developing the project, Braunstein said: “Not really. We went on the Internet for backup research.”

Darrell Young, director of the state Department of Conservation, said NBC should run a disclaimer, as well as list Web sites where audiences could get true information about quakes.

NBC has made no decision about a disclaimer, Braunstein said. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

The special effects-laden, four-hour miniseries stars Kim Delaney and Beau Bridges and is set to air May 2 and 3.

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