Quake drill reveals major faults


With sirens at several locations failing to go off and ambulances getting stuck in traffic, Wednesday's mega mock earthquake drill to check preparedness in Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali revealed several flaws that need to be improved by authorities.

The mock drill was conducted at 15 places each in Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali, with the locations being picked by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in collaboration with the local administrations. Residential and commercial areas, hospitals, bus stands, railway station and airport were among the places chosen to conduct the drill.

A scenario was created for a hypothetical earthquake of magnitude 8 on the Richter scale with its epicentre at Sundernagar town in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. The states of Punjab, Haryana, HP and Union Territory of Chandigarh fall in seismic zones IV and V, which are most prone to earthquakes, were involved in the exercise.

The drill started as sirens went off at 10.30 am. Problems started immediately with sirens malfunctioning at the Railway Station and Punjab Engineering College. Emergency vehicles like fire tenders and PCR vehicles were first on the scene, but ambulances were not able to arrive at certain locations as they got stuck in traffic.

About 900 personnel from NDRF were organized in 30 teams. Of these seven each were in Panchkula and Mohali and eight each in Chandigarh and Shimla. Around 900 civil defense personnel and 270 independent observers from the army participated in the exercise. This was apart from the emergency support functionaries including police, health, fire, medical, power and PWD. A unified command, state emergency operations centre (EOC) and district EOCs were also set up.

In Mohali, there were instances where the fire tenders were unable to bring down people who had to be rescued. An official from Mohali stated that there was a need for a better communication network in the state and added that public participation can be improved and better EOCs need to be set up.

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