Quake drill reveals major faults
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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.
The officials of NDMA also highlighted the need for better communication system. "Communication was a serious problem. There is a need for state of the art communication system. The aim of the mock drill was to check capabilities of the various services and the response time. Within one hour of a disaster is the golden our when the help should reach. The feedback from the observers would be taken and discussion held with the authorities," said a member of NDMA J K Sinha.
With preparations for the mock drill having started over three months ago in Tricity, conducive conditions were ensured for smooth conduct. No vehicle was allowed to be parked at the parking lot near Neelam Theatre, Sector 17. For the drill to be conducted at Hotel Mountview in Sector 10, the road in front of the hotel was blocked with no vehicles allowed to commute. A similar situation prevailed at DT Mall, another site for the mock drill where entry was not allowed till afternoon. UT Deputy Commissioner Mohd Shayin said that in order to prevent any mishaps or cause problems to the residents, certain measures were taken.
Directorate General of NDRF, P M Nair, said there was a need for repetition of the exercise at the local level and training of the youth. The officials of NDMA also stated that while in the current exercise, forces from outside were available, the UT and the state governments need to strengthen their own resources.
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