Earthquake 8 October: Fact not rumour | By Dr Asif Channer


Earthquake 8 October: Fact not rumour

EARTHQUAKES result due to shaking of the surface of the earth due to sudden movements of tectonic plates, volcanic eruptions, atomic explosions and collision of the Meteorites with the earth surface.

Two factors, the intensity and the duration determine their catastrophic impacts. The effective tool to measure the intensity of earthquakes even today is the Richter scale.

The largest ever figure recorded in human history on the Richter scale is 9.5. It is not possible to predict the earthquake, pre-shocks or the aftershocks despite the scientific knowledge and technology thus handicapping to specify their exact dates, timings, location, magnitude and intensity.

Though Earthquake activity in Pakistan is mainly concentrated in the North and West, but it is alarming that all major cities of Pakistan are located on the fault lines.

History reveals that even in the pre-Pakistan era the region has been affected drastically by earthquakes; to-date 30 such incidents have stricken Pakistani region.

After partition, the first major earthquake was recorded on December 28, 1974 hitting Hunza, Hazara and Swat.

Its magnitude was 6.2 about 5,300 people lost their lives and 17,000 sustained injuries. Interestingly, the world’s 23rd most deadly earthquake hit Quetta on May 31, 1935 with a magnitude of 7.7, killing about 30,000 to 60,000 people.

Moreover, the strongest ever earthquake magnitude of 8.1 in the history of the region struck the Makran-Sindh coast which triggered the strong Tsunami on November 27, 1945, two years before the partition of the subcontinent and it claimed 4000 lives.

However, on October 8, 2005 the worst-ever earthquake in the history of modern South Asia and Pakistan hit the Northern parts of the country with a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter scale.

More than 5 million people were affected by the earthquake, about 100,000 adults including 19000 children lost their life besides 3.3 million people made homeless and 250,000 animals were killed. The devastation was beyond imagination as many villages were wiped off the geography. In addition 978 aftershocks were recorded until October 27, 2005.

Despite the lapse of 16 years of the worst ever earthquake which hit Pakistan, Federal, Provincial and Local Governments have not been able to fully rehabilitate and reconstruct the regions, establish scientific search and rescue infrastructure, safe and effective evacuation & transportation of the victims, mapping of the affected areas or areas likely to be affected by similar events, construct and reinforce the earthquake resistant buildings in accordance with the modern “Building Codes and guidelines” including the needs assessment of hospitals and other compulsory facilities.

It is worth mentioning that the fact was in the notice of the cornered authorities when the Capital Islamabad was being established in 1960 that there was a permanent threat of earthquakes in the region hence multi-storey buildings were prohibited to be erected as a policy.

However, if unavoidable, not more than two story buildings could be constructed but regrettably it was wholly ignored.

At present, there are multi-storey buildings, Apartments, Plazas, Market and Panoramas etc found everywhere and new construction is underway uninterruptedly which show not only the gross violation of the regulations/polices but also posing a constant threat for an unimaginable human loss which tantamount to criminal negligence

Earthquakes are unavoidable in Pakistan hence it is imperative for the Federal, Provincial and Local Governments to adopt the preventive measures and reinforce or formulate revised policies and plans to minimize human and property loss like strengthening the Meteorological Department with all scientific resources including human resources/professionals introduction of “Building Codes” to construct all official, commercial, residential and other buildings both in public and private sectors.

The solid infrastructure like roads, bridges, dams, hospitals, teaching institutions, Railway stations, Airport, Radio stations, Power stations, Sui Gas, PTCL installations etc be fortified with the best quality building materials, resisting the high intensity shocks. In addition the timely repair and maintenance of all buildings/infrastructures be also ensured.

Furthermore all the Governmental, Semi-Governmental and Private Housing Societies, Development Authorities, Construction companies must consider the “Earthquake Factor” along with other safety measures in their planning and development and its cost be incorporated in the development budget.

“Basic Disaster Management Training” be included in the academic curriculum right from the primary to university level and this training be also imparted to earthquake prone areas/communities along with the establishment of “Community Awareness Response Teams(CERTs)” to respond locally and immediately.

“The Building Evacuation Drills” and “Mock exercises” be practised regularly in the teaching institutions including all public gathering buildings like banks, shopping malls, libraries, theatre, sports gymnasiums, hotels, industries even in hospitals thus sensitizing all to play their role before, during and after earthquakes.

Moreover the “Evacuation Plans” for all these buildings under reference be designed and pasted at prominent/visible places. All above mentioned suggestions/recommendations are not simple and easy.

Nevertheless, the task is achievable through strong political and personal commitment, legal framework, well defined revised policy formulation, implementation and follow-ups, to handle the earthquake, the permanent natural disaster prevalent in the region, to make Pakistan a resilient nation.

— The writer is DEO Rescue 1122 Bahawalpur.

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