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Preparedness key to mitigate quake damage

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, April 30 � Preparedness holds the key in mitigating the losses in a major earthquake and special care should be taken to ensure that critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, command and control centres, fire services buildings, electric and water supply infrastructure, etc., are earthquake resistant.

This was the view of the Geo Hazards Society, a non-government organization which works in reducing earthquake risk in the developing countries. Considering that there are several of hill cities/towns in the Northeast, the building bye laws of these cities should be strengthened to ensure that all constructions are safe and in areas that are not prone to the effects of landslides. Unfortunately, there are no special provisions in our building codes for hill side buildings.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, the South Asia Regional Coordinator of the Geo Hazards, Hari Kumar reiterated that the threat perception in Northeast India, which falls under high risk Seismic Zone V, is definitely very high. That is why, adequate precautionary measures need to be taken to mitigate the earthquake risk in the area. Kumar pointed out that the damages in Kathmandu might have been amplified because of its soft soils in the valley and many of our cities in high risks also have sandy soil conditions.

He said that for some time, Nepal knew that they had a major earthquake threat and had started various efforts to reduce risk and had strengthened some schools and other buildings. But it was a race against time. If Nepal had more time for preparedness, or if they were faster in reducing risks, the damage could have been less, he added. Most of our cities in earthquake-prone zones are also in the race with the next earthquake.

The Geo Hazards official said that the first major step that the governments of all the Northeastern States should take is to ensure that all hospitals remain functional after any emergency situation. �In Nepal, we have seen people getting treated in the hospital car parking places though the buildings had not collapsed. Even operations are being carried out in open air,� he said. This is because they had lost electricity, back-up power and critical equipment may have fallen down. He suggested that the governments in the earthquake-prone areas should not only ensure that all the hospital buildings are safe, but also that all the equipment inside the hospitals are not damaged in an earthquake so that those injured get proper medical care. There should be adequate number of doctors and nurses as in such an emergency situation, the number of patients would be much more than any normal day. The hospitals should conduct mock drills to test their preparedness.

Another point that Kumar suggested is the safety of schools in earthquake-prone regions. He pointed out that fortunately, all schools in Nepal were closed on�Saturday�or else the disaster would have been much more devastating. He said that adequate care should be taken to ensure that all school buildings are safe and have proper disaster management plan. �According to our information, Assam and Tripura have started working on this aspect first and the other Northeast States are catching up,� he added.

Kumar admitted that construction of houses on hills and hillsides can prove to be a major threat in case of a major earthquake. He pointed out that the risk in the hill towns in Northeast is very high and all development should be regulated well. Aizawl is one of the cities which has taken this seriously and the Aizawl Municipal Council has even prepared a long term plan called �Roadmap to Stability� which could be a guidance for other hill towns as well.

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Preparedness key to mitigate quake damage

GUWAHATI, April 30 � Preparedness holds the key in mitigating the losses in a major earthquake and special care should be taken to ensure that critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, command and control centres, fire services buildings, electric and water supply infrastructure, etc., are earthquake resistant.

This was the view of the Geo Hazards Society, a non-government organization which works in reducing earthquake risk in the developing countries. Considering that there are several of hill cities/towns in the Northeast, the building bye laws of these cities should be strengthened to ensure that all constructions are safe and in areas that are not prone to the effects of landslides. Unfortunately, there are no special provisions in our building codes for hill side buildings.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, the South Asia Regional Coordinator of the Geo Hazards, Hari Kumar reiterated that the threat perception in Northeast India, which falls under high risk Seismic Zone V, is definitely very high. That is why, adequate precautionary measures need to be taken to mitigate the earthquake risk in the area. Kumar pointed out that the damages in Kathmandu might have been amplified because of its soft soils in the valley and many of our cities in high risks also have sandy soil conditions.

He said that for some time, Nepal knew that they had a major earthquake threat and had started various efforts to reduce risk and had strengthened some schools and other buildings. But it was a race against time. If Nepal had more time for preparedness, or if they were faster in reducing risks, the damage could have been less, he added. Most of our cities in earthquake-prone zones are also in the race with the next earthquake.

The Geo Hazards official said that the first major step that the governments of all the Northeastern States should take is to ensure that all hospitals remain functional after any emergency situation. �In Nepal, we have seen people getting treated in the hospital car parking places though the buildings had not collapsed. Even operations are being carried out in open air,� he said. This is because they had lost electricity, back-up power and critical equipment may have fallen down. He suggested that the governments in the earthquake-prone areas should not only ensure that all the hospital buildings are safe, but also that all the equipment inside the hospitals are not damaged in an earthquake so that those injured get proper medical care. There should be adequate number of doctors and nurses as in such an emergency situation, the number of patients would be much more than any normal day. The hospitals should conduct mock drills to test their preparedness.

Another point that Kumar suggested is the safety of schools in earthquake-prone regions. He pointed out that fortunately, all schools in Nepal were closed on�Saturday�or else the disaster would have been much more devastating. He said that adequate care should be taken to ensure that all school buildings are safe and have proper disaster management plan. �According to our information, Assam and Tripura have started working on this aspect first and the other Northeast States are catching up,� he added.

Kumar admitted that construction of houses on hills and hillsides can prove to be a major threat in case of a major earthquake. He pointed out that the risk in the hill towns in Northeast is very high and all development should be regulated well. Aizawl is one of the cities which has taken this seriously and the Aizawl Municipal Council has even prepared a long term plan called �Roadmap to Stability� which could be a guidance for other hill towns as well.