After Bhuj lesson, a survey of all hospitals in quake zones


One of the biggest setbacks from the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, which killed over 20,000 people and injured nearly two lakh, was that it brought down the Bhuj Civil Hospital too.

Now, the National Disaster Management Authority has set about the task of surveying all such "lifeline" buildings in the high-risk zones 4 and 5, an effort aimed at ensuring that these will be strengthened eventually.

"We have decided to use the rapid visual inspection technique to survey all lifeline buildings in all states that fall under zones 4, 5 of the seismic map. The information would help us identify buildings that might pose a potentially serious risk of loss to life and injury, or of severe curtailment of community services in case of a damaging earthquake," said Prof Harsh K Gupta, NDMA member.

Zones 4 and 5, the "very high damage risk" zones, carry the risk of earthquakes of magnitude 8, 9 or higher on the Richter scale. Kashmir, the western and central Himalayas, the Northeast and the Rann of Kutch are in zone 5. The Indo-Gangetic basin and Delhi, parts of Jammu and Kashmir and Patan (Koyananager) in Maharashtra are in zone 4.

Prof Gupta said the survey would help them understand which buildings need to have their withstanding capacity studied further by engineers. Once a state government is informed, however, "making changes to the vulnerable structures becomes a state subject and responsibility", Prof Gupta said.

The ongoing process would also help in prioritising buildings where technical and other resources could be utilised most effectively with regard to disaster management.

In Delhi, which falls under zone 4, East Delhi is considered the most vulnerable. Of the recommendations the NDMA makes for strengthening of vulnerable houses, one is "seismic bands". "Having steel bands across all corners of a house will provide strength against horizontal accelerations of an earthquake," Prof Gupta said.

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