DIMAPUR, Feb 19 � Five earthquakes have hit the Northeastern region this month alone. As per India Meteorological Department�s website, more than five mild earthquakes have occurred in the NE in February alone. The latest being on February 12 when two tremors measuring 5.0 and 3.5 on the richter scale were recorded with Manipur as the preliminary location.
This have come amid predictions that �a stretch of the central Himalayan region is ripe for an earthquake more powerful than any it has experienced over the past 700 years. But the best available science cannot predict exactly when it will occur.�
Few days ago, a news report carried in an English daily said that three Indian geophysicists have found fresh evidence for a massive build-up of tectonic strain along a 600 km stretch of the central Himalayas long overdue for release through an earthquake that they say could flatten unprotected structures hundreds of kilometres away.
�Their findings, just published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, suggest that this central Himalayan region that extends from Kangra in Himachal Pradesh to the Bihar-Nepal border has not experienced any earthquake of magnitude eight since the 14th century,� stated the news report.
This relatively quiescent phase implies that the tectonic strain that results from the Indian plate pushing against the Asian plate has accumulated there without adequate release for nearly 700 years, it added.
�This segment is mature � it�s ready for a really big earthquake,� said Chittenipattu Rajendran, Professor of Geodynamics at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore, who led the study. �We can say that now with even greater confidence than before, but we cannot say when�.
Meanwhile, in the context of Nagaland, the urban areas will be more vulnerable to such natural catastrophe as there are many huge structures which were/and are being built without proper consultations from experts (architects and engineers), says Dr Hovithal Sothu, State Coordinator for Disaster Management Cell, Administrative Training Institute (ATI). He explained that although no physical assessment has been done, the damage in the face of a major earthquake as high as an eight and above magnitude for a town like Kohima will be disastrous.
Dr Sothu, who is also a geologist, feels that the State has a long way to go when it comes to awareness and preparedness for such disastrous calamity. While trainings on disaster management are imparted by the ATI, the Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority, Civil Defence & Homeguards and the district administrations, he emphasised the need to generate more awareness.
�We should all keep in mind that no one can predict an earthquake but every ward in towns and every citizen should be sensitised and be equipped on safety measures,� he said.
It can be noted here that the Himalayan seismic belt, extending from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, is reported to be seismically a very active region. Within a span of 53 years, between 1897 and 1950, four great earthquakes� Shillong (1897), Kangra (1905), Bihar-Nepal (1934), and Assam (1950) � exceeding magnitude eight occurred in the region with vast devastations. Although no such high magnitude earthquake has occurred since 1950, studies indicate that enough strains have accumulated to generate magnitude eight or larger earthquakes in the Himalayan region and will likely affect over six lakh people in the North East alone.
Towards this, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has undertaken a project, including a mega mock drill last year on how State and non-State agencies in the North East would respond in such a scenario.
In March 2014, mega mock-drills were conducted across the North East including Nagaland, in replication of a possible magnitude 8.7 Shillong 1897 earthquake. According to the NDMA, a revisit of the 1897 earthquake in the present day context is likely to present a very damaging scenario due to topography, polarisation of population in capital cities and the change in building typology.