there are pictures of a pile of debris that used to be someone's house, now resting on a bridge to a barrier island in NJ (Montowonk? Matawonk? something like that). one of the pictures shows a lone house in the background standing on the island. the caption mentions it used to be surrounded by other houses. i google-mapped the spot (not hard to find from the clues in the captions and photos) and found that house. and yes, it looks to have been 1/6th to 1/4th-acre density, four or five rows deep, and now it's just that one house and a lot of sand. my question is how that one house, which looks completely intact but must have been up to its eaves in water, managed not to float away with the rest.
as for government assistance, anyone who thinks it will ever be equal to what insurance will pay, they're fooling themselves. you're not rebuilding a fleet of $1.5-million beach houses with $5-10k debit cards.
In many places in the US, older homes were not required to have the wooden frame bolted to the concrete slab. Here in California it is now required to bolt the frame to the slab so that an earth quake won't cause the frame to move off of the slab as there are often very severe side to side movements that can be strong enough to move the frame if not bolted to the slab.
I suspect that the home that survived had its frame bolted to the foundation somehow. Also it was probably better built having more structural members that were designed to strengthen the frame against higher stresses and it could be that the owner had this done beyond existing code because he was hear the ocean and was simply being cautious. Also older homes are often not as well built to handle natural disasters as newer homes as the code has been upgraded to reflect these natural events. At least that is the case in California. You won't find newer brick buildings in CA because they cannot survive an earth quake so they are not allowed. You can have decorative brick but behind it has to be a wall that is capable of handling the stress that an earth quake places on a home. Homes in California are designed to flex and remain undamaged. Brick cannot flex. I can imagine that homes on the East Coast close to the ocean where they can see high winds and waves when there is a storm have more stringent codes today that make them more durable than older homes when codes were more lax. I cannot imagine that California is the only state taking care of business. The only problem is you can get Joe know it all who thinks he can do his own remodel and doesn’t know jack and the home can get sold to someone else without the inspector noticing that there are many things not done to code. It happens all the time.
I once bought a home where the guy added a room and did not tie the rafters to the joist thus making it possible for the roof to push sideways until the wall collapsed. When I discovered this flaw a few years later I had to have someone come in and bolt them together to make the home safe. Had we had an earth quake before I repaired the faulty construction the room may have collapsed on us. I was lucky I found the flaw as we did have an earthquake a few years later. The guy doing the repair work could not believe that someone would be so dumb. I told him that he probably didn’t hire a carpenter, did it himself, and didn’t know it was necessary.
Some people think that building a home is as easy as building a tree house. After that experience I personally inspect a home when I buy it. And I make sure I choose the inspector myself and not the real estate agent so he does not feel obligate to be easy on the inspection to facilitate the deal going through less the agent never call on him again.
In older homes in California you can find the tar paper and chicken wire to which they attach the stucco nailed right to the wall studs. Now days they require plywood sheeting first and the sheeting acts as a structural support between studs making it so the house is stronger. It also adds a little more insulation but they do it for the added strength. Newer homes built this way will have a much better chance of surviving an earthquake intact.
Just saw something amazing. Someone got a reverse shot of the same spot from an airplane. It's not just that the houses are gone, that part of the island is gone. The storm surge cut a new inlet through the barrier island. About a hundred yards of water on either side, with the one house sitting on a tiny island the size of its own lot, right in the middle. The earlier pictures must have been low tide, because it was all sand. This one was between tides, and it's flowing water, which is just going to keep slicing that channel deeper over time.