Faking magnitude 8 in the Himalayas, to handle earthquakes better

FP

Rather than wait for an earthquake to happen in the high-risk Himalayan region, disaster managers will simulate the aftermath of one of magnitude 8 on the Richter scale.

"Since there is no method of forecasting an earthquake the most instantaneous natural disaster we need to be better prepared," said Prof Harsh K Gupta, member of the National Disaster Management Authority.

The imagined earthquake will have its epicentre at Sundarnagar in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh. It will have struck at 11.30 am on February 13 and ruptured an entire 200-km faultline, causing tremors of varying intensities and affecting 15 spots in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and the Union territory of Chandigarh.

The NDMA and Delhi's DDMA had conducted the largest ever mock disaster drill on February 15 last year. The Delhi exercise will be the benchmark for the upcoming one. Eventualities such as a chemical explosion, a bridge collapse, fire, a gas leak and building collapses will be simulated at flyovers, markets, offices, government and private schools and colleges, hospitals, railway stations, bus stands, airports and residential areas.

"There are three aspects to it to develop realistic scenarios to know the vulnerability and preparedness of state machinery as well as the public's response; to make the government machinery more knowledgeable about such scenarios; and to conduct awareness campaigns and mock drills," Gupta said.

"We have estimated the population that will be exposed to the risk as against the total population density, and, considering topography and other surface features, the human loss that such a scenario can lead to," Gupta said. Factoring in the aftershocks that come 20-30 seconds after the first earthquake impact, the NDMA has projected that 231.8 lakh people will be exposed to intensities X-IX on the MSK scale, 323.6 lakh to intensities IX-VIII, and 251.6 lakh to intensities VIII-VII.

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