The following link shows two houses experiencing an earthquake simulation. One of these houses is a typical house, and the other is the same house, but it has been strengthened or retrofitted. (There are two houses on a shake table. When the table shakes, the unretrofitted house on the left collapses.) - (Source: Special Project for Earthquake Disaster Mitigation in Urban Areas, Testing and Analysis of wood structure by MEXT, NIED, BRI and University of Tokyo.)
The motion that most people associate with earthquakes – the shaking of the earth – is usually what causes the vast majority of the destruction, injury, and death in an earthquake. When the earth moves, buildings are pulled along with it, which causes them to sway. The taller a building, the more it will tend to sway in an earthquake. Think of what happens when you slide a plate of jello. If you move it slowly, nothing perceptible will happen; however if you jerk it quickly, it will vibrate.