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1897 tremor claimed 1,542 lives in Assam

By AJIT PATOWARY

GUWAHATI, May 2 � The 8.7-magnitude earthquake of June 12, 1897, which shook Assam and its neighbouring areas, took a toll of 1,542 human lives in the nine districts of the State, said EA Gait, the then Office Secretary of the Chief Commissioner of Assam in a letter to the Home Secretary of the Government of India on August 14, 1897.

Gait also said in the same letter that the calamity was unprecedented and unique in Assam, and indeed in India.

In the letter, Gait, an officer of the Indian Civil Service, who is more known for his A History of Assam, said that it was most fortunate that the earthquake occurred in the afternoon when nearly everybody was out of doors, after a wet day, and this saved many human lives. If it had occurred at night, the mortality would have been terrible, he asserted.

He further said that his �note� (letter) had recorded in a scientific manner the damage done to the buildings and communications which were borne on the books of the Public Works Department, and showed that the cost of repairing damage in that department alone was estimated at more than Rs 35 lakh.

Moreover, he said that the figure cited above did not include the cost of damage to local communications and works, which were chargeable to municipalities and local boards, or departmental expenditure not borne by the Public Works Department. The administration would have to make large grants from provincial revenues to meet this expenditure and that amount was not likely to be less than three lakh rupees.

�� the most important communications of the province are closed to cart traffic, and the work of the Administration is being carried on in temporary sheds and tents... If funds are made available, it is hoped that in two years� time, or at most within three years, the public works of the Province will have been restored to their former condition,� he said.

He further said that the then Chief Commissioner (Sir Henry John Stedman Cotton) was able to infer, from the information at his disposal, that the focus of the 1897 seismic disturbances was �somewhere near the foot of the hills westward of Cherrapunji.� �It is believed to be due to fault in the earth�s crust �,� he said.

Undoubtedly, the impacts of the earthquake was �most severe� in the Garo and Khasi Hills, and the focus of the shocks appeared to have radiated from them on all sides. The plains districts which suffered the most are those in the immediate vicinity of these hills, namely Kamrup and Goalpara to the north and west Mymensingh and Sylhet to the south and Nagaon to the east, Gait said.

The character of the shock felt everywhere was also much the same; though varying in degree, there was sharp vibration accompanied by a rocking and heaving of the earth, and a loud rumbling noise. In the hills, there were terrible landslips accompanied by loss of life, Gait wrote.

In the plains, the rivers were agitated, and the Brahmaputra at Gauhati rose more than 7 feet. The waves rose suddenly and subsided very gradually. But it is observable that the river gauge at Sylhet showed no rise at all. In the Sunamganj subdivision of Sylhet, the river banks crumbled and fell into the river. Geysers sprang up and spouted sand and water, he said.

Eruption of sand and water was most prevalent in the Kamrup and Goalpara districts, in the plains portion of the Garo Hills and the subdivision of Sunamganj. The subsidence of villages seems to have been a marked feature in the Sunamganj subdivision.

Though it is difficult to define the duration of the shock, it could be said that it could not have lasted for less than three minutes, even as the duration of its extreme intensity was probably limited to about 30 seconds. The fall of Government House, the largest building in Shillong, must have been complete in five seconds, wrote Gait.

After the great shock, the earth tremor was continuous for several days and definite shocks were incessant for two or three days. In Shillong itself, it was estimated that there were 200 shocks a day for the first two or three days after the big shock of June 12. Those shocks gradually diminished to 20 or 30 shocks a day up to the middle of July, Gait said.

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— Dalai Lama(THIS IS STATIC)

1897 tremor claimed 1,542 lives in Assam

GUWAHATI, May 2 � The 8.7-magnitude earthquake of June 12, 1897, which shook Assam and its neighbouring areas, took a toll of 1,542 human lives in the nine districts of the State, said EA Gait, the then Office Secretary of the Chief Commissioner of Assam in a letter to the Home Secretary of the Government of India on August 14, 1897.

Gait also said in the same letter that the calamity was unprecedented and unique in Assam, and indeed in India.

In the letter, Gait, an officer of the Indian Civil Service, who is more known for his A History of Assam, said that it was most fortunate that the earthquake occurred in the afternoon when nearly everybody was out of doors, after a wet day, and this saved many human lives. If it had occurred at night, the mortality would have been terrible, he asserted.

He further said that his �note� (letter) had recorded in a scientific manner the damage done to the buildings and communications which were borne on the books of the Public Works Department, and showed that the cost of repairing damage in that department alone was estimated at more than Rs 35 lakh.

Moreover, he said that the figure cited above did not include the cost of damage to local communications and works, which were chargeable to municipalities and local boards, or departmental expenditure not borne by the Public Works Department. The administration would have to make large grants from provincial revenues to meet this expenditure and that amount was not likely to be less than three lakh rupees.

�� the most important communications of the province are closed to cart traffic, and the work of the Administration is being carried on in temporary sheds and tents... If funds are made available, it is hoped that in two years� time, or at most within three years, the public works of the Province will have been restored to their former condition,� he said.

He further said that the then Chief Commissioner (Sir Henry John Stedman Cotton) was able to infer, from the information at his disposal, that the focus of the 1897 seismic disturbances was �somewhere near the foot of the hills westward of Cherrapunji.� �It is believed to be due to fault in the earth�s crust �,� he said.

Undoubtedly, the impacts of the earthquake was �most severe� in the Garo and Khasi Hills, and the focus of the shocks appeared to have radiated from them on all sides. The plains districts which suffered the most are those in the immediate vicinity of these hills, namely Kamrup and Goalpara to the north and west Mymensingh and Sylhet to the south and Nagaon to the east, Gait said.

The character of the shock felt everywhere was also much the same; though varying in degree, there was sharp vibration accompanied by a rocking and heaving of the earth, and a loud rumbling noise. In the hills, there were terrible landslips accompanied by loss of life, Gait wrote.

In the plains, the rivers were agitated, and the Brahmaputra at Gauhati rose more than 7 feet. The waves rose suddenly and subsided very gradually. But it is observable that the river gauge at Sylhet showed no rise at all. In the Sunamganj subdivision of Sylhet, the river banks crumbled and fell into the river. Geysers sprang up and spouted sand and water, he said.

Eruption of sand and water was most prevalent in the Kamrup and Goalpara districts, in the plains portion of the Garo Hills and the subdivision of Sunamganj. The subsidence of villages seems to have been a marked feature in the Sunamganj subdivision.

Though it is difficult to define the duration of the shock, it could be said that it could not have lasted for less than three minutes, even as the duration of its extreme intensity was probably limited to about 30 seconds. The fall of Government House, the largest building in Shillong, must have been complete in five seconds, wrote Gait.

After the great shock, the earth tremor was continuous for several days and definite shocks were incessant for two or three days. In Shillong itself, it was estimated that there were 200 shocks a day for the first two or three days after the big shock of June 12. Those shocks gradually diminished to 20 or 30 shocks a day up to the middle of July, Gait said.

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— Dalai Lama(THIS IS STATIC)