Earthquake: Pains Not Opaque | By Dr Asif Channer


Earthquake: Pains Not Opaque

UNFORTUNATELY Pakistan has been facing the natural disasters like ongoing worst flooding in the region, earthquake, even before the partition of subcontinent, dengue disease outbreaks, lumpy skin disease (LSD) and smog etc. Coincidently the country lies in the fault zone of Earthquakes making it more vulnerable to this unpredictable disaster without any scientific tools or techniques to anticipate and forecast the coming calamity, its duration and intensity.

8th October 2005 Earthquake is one of immmemorable catastrophes on the record. Earth quakes 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 earthquake even today is Richter scale. Mr Charles Francis Richter was the man who invented this apparatus in 1935. This scale ranges from 0 to 9. The Magnitude 2 is just noticeable but 5 or above causes damage over a wide area. The largest ever figure recorded in the human history on Richter scale is 9.5.Morever there are many earthquakes on daily basis globally which remain hidden and are unperceivable. It is not possible to predict the earthquake, pre-shocks nor 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 Western divisions of the Country but it is alarming that All major cities of Pakistan are located on the fault lines. Islamabad sits on 5 major fault lines running through the city which are capable of generating large earthquakes. Karachi and other parts of deltaic Indus Makran coast have 4 fault lines around.

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 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 lives besides 3.3 million people made homeless and 250,000 animal 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.

During the same month on October 29, 2008 another earthquake targeted Ziarat Baluchistan with 6.4 magnitude resulting 215 deaths and 200 injured persons, On January 18, 2011 in Dalbandin, Baluchistan with magnitude 7.2 including 3 deaths and few injuries. On September 23,2019 in Muzaffarabad and Northern parts sustained the jerks with the magnitude of the 6.2 resulting in 37 deaths and about 800 unfortunates injured victims along with damage to buildings and infrastructures. on October 9,2019 a tremor with intensity of 4.5 was felt in the Muzaffarabad areas however no loss of the human or the building were resulted.

On December 20,2019 earthquake of 6.4-magnitude swayed Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. luckily only a child was injured and a house partially damaged in the Upper Dir District in KPK. Moreover Lahore, Murree , Islamabad, Chiniot, Peshawar, Mansehra, Battagram and Gilgit-Baltistan felt the tremors. Parliamentary session was ongoing and members vacated the house immediately. Due to panic the representative of the foreign offices also marched out of buildings.

Currently, on September 28, 2020 the Seism vibrated Eastern Kashmir, India and Pakistan with magnitude of 4.2 on Richter scale. Lahore also felt it but fortunately no loss resulted. Despite the lapse of 17 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 victims, mapping of the affected areas or areas likely to be effected by similar events, integrated contingency plans per need of the area, construct and reinforce the earthquake resistant buildings in accordance to 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 Capital Islamabad was being established in 1960 that there was a permanent threat of earthquakes in the region hence multistory 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 multistory buildings, Apartments, Plazas, Market and Panoramas etc founded everywhere and new construction is underway uninterruptedly which show not only the gross violations of the regulations/polices but also posing a constant threat for an unimaginable human loss and 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 Metrological department with all scientific Recourse including human Recourse /Professionals with effective Communication, Coordination and Collaboration Medium, 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, buildings like hospitals, teachings institutions, Railway stations, Airport, Radio stations, Power stations, Sui Gas, PTCL installations etc be fortified with best quality building materials, resisting the high intensity shocks. In addition the timely Repair and maintenance of the 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 Trainings” 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 practiced regularly in the teaching institutions including all public gathering buildings like banks, shopping malls, libraries, theater, 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 on prominent/visible places. This will help in safe evacuation and escape of public not only in earthquake but also in other emergencies like fire, terrorism etc. Furthermore workplace safety department or at least appointment of safety supervisors to ensure all the safety precaution is mandatory. All above mentioned suggestions & recommendations are not simple. Nevertheless the task is achievable through strong political and personal commitment, legal framework, well defined revised policy formulation, implementation and follow-ups, to handle earthquakes, the permanent natural disaster prevalent in the region, to make Pakistan a resilient nation.


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