EARTHQUAKE

Pakistan experience

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Feb 05 - 11, 2001

Friday morning at 8.20 (Pakistan) and 8.53 am (India) was the shocking moment claiming thousands of precious lives and uncountable property losses when an earthquake measuring 7.9 on Richter scale hit the Indian state of Gujarat on January 26.

Nature, however was kind to Pakistan for the devastating earthquake that spelled death and destruction elsewhere merely gave some mild strokes felt in Karachi, interior of Sindh, Lahore and Peshawar etc.

The exact casualty figure for Sindh is estimated at 18 and the damage in the province was done in Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Badin and other parts suffered the most with a minimum as compared to the massive destruction caused by the earthquake in India.

Since the rescue operation in Ahmedabad and adjoining areas affected by the devastation is still in progress, the exact number of deaths has yet to be known. The death toll is feared to have risen well over 100,000 in the western Indian State of Gujarat.

The quake was felt as far away as Pakistan and Nepal, cast a tragic shadow over India's annual Republic Day celebrations and was described as a calamity of national magnitude by the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

It is however heartening to note that despite the collapse of all social, moral and human values the love and respect for humanity is still alive in this world of materialism. The way the world community responded to provide relief to human sufferings in India gives the hope that virtue still rules over the vice. The Kashmiri freedom fighters donated blood, a Pakistani army plane rushed tents and blankets to homeless and shivering earthquake victims while Hindu and Muslim groups in otherwise communally polarized Gujarat state, suspended their hostilities to tend to the dead and living dead.

The massive support in cash and kind extended with any discrimination by the Muslims to their Hindu fellow citizens of Ahemdabad produced results beyond imagination. As a gesture of goodwill the disputed mosque occupied by rigged Hindus in Ahmedabad has been handed over to the Muslims where they have started five times prayers after the earthquake, it is reported.

Brushing aside all political or border differences, A C-130 Hercules transport plane of Pakistan landed thrice at Ahmedabad airport on ferrying 13 tonnes of relief material including tents and blankets. This gesture of goodwill at the hour of need also conveyed message not only to India but also around the world that Pakistan respects and believes in human values. The action was also responded well when Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee telephoned Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Feb 2 to thank Pakistan for helping India in the hour of need. He said that Islamabad's goodwill gesture would help in improving relations between the two countries. He also told the chief executive that Pakistan government's decision to dispatch relief goods for earthquake victims in Grujrat province would help both the countries to get closer to each other.

This positive development is being described as ice breaking between the two countries and a step forward towards normalization of cold relations between India and Pakistan. The world leaders including US have recognized as a positive move towards easing the tension between the two countries. Though it is too early to guess the impact of this positive move especially in the context of Kashmir issue, yet it has pave the way for easing the tense situation which is imperative for economic prosperity of the two countries. Despite the massive devastation caused by the earthquake it may be described as a blessing in disguise provided the two countries are succeeded in addressing the issues between them. Pakistan by offering relief goods and India by accepting the offer, have broken the ice. It is a positive development that they have put politics aside at a time of desparate human suffering when saving lives and providing relief and to come to aid to the distressed multitude should be the first priority of governments and citizens alike. Even after the emergency relief work has been concluded, it would be a good gesture on the part of Islamabad to offer to cooperate in any long term reconstruction programme for quake ravaged Gujarat. Since the province of Sindh and the Indian State of Gujarat are located in a quake prone area, the situation calls for greater cooperation and coordination to meet any future eventuality in the larger interest of the humanity.

Sindh situation

There are 4 categories of expected damages caused by earthquake and they are designated as zone-0 which is least damaging, or can cause negligible damaging, Zone-1 where mild earthquake are expected, Zone 2 has the potentiality to cause damages, Zone 3 is highly damaging and Zone 4 is highly devastating. Hyderabad is in Zone 1, Karachi Zone 2, Tharparkar Zone 3, Quetta Zone 4 that is highly devastating.

Experts say that Karachi has been categorized as Zone 2 since 1985, it means an earthquake of moderate intensity could hit the city with a magnitude ranging between 6 and 6.5 on the Richter Scale.

According to experts, there are 4 major faults around Karachi, which are Karachi-Jati-Allahbub-Run of Kutchh, Jhimpir fault, Pub Fault.

What is earthquake?

Earthquake is a shake or sudden shock of part of the earth's surface. As many as a million earthquakes may occur in a single year. Most earthquakes take place beneath the sea. Some of these ocean earthquakes cause no damage. But earthquakes that occur on land near large cities cause much damage and loss of life especially if the cities rest on soft ground. A large earthquake may release energy equal to 10,000 times more energy than the first atomic bomb exploded in Japan.

Large earthquakes cause violent motions of the earth surface. Sometimes they cause huge sea waves to sweep up on land and add to the general destruction. Such waves often occur in the Pacific Ocean because of earthquakes within the ocean basin. The Japanese call these destructive waves tsunami.

How earthquakes happen: Forces within the earth continually squeeze and stretch the rocks that make up the outer layers of the earth. These forces originate in the enormous heat of the earth's interior, which is about 980oC(1800oF) at a depth of 100 miles. When the strain becomes too great, the rocks rupture (break). The disturbance caused by the rupture is an earthquake. The actual break in the rocks is called a fault. Most earthquake faults like beneath the surface, but some are visible on the surface. The Saint Andreas Fault in California is visible for 600 miles.

Much of the energy released in earthquake travels away from the fault in waves called seismic waves. Near the earthquakes focus (the place where the rupture begins) vibrations of the seismic waves may be extremely destructive. Farther away, the vibrations are felt less. But of a great earthquake can be detected at seismograph stations throughout the world.

Seismic waves consist of compression waves, shear waves and surface waves. Compression waves are really sound waves, and travel at a speed of about five miles a second. Their vibrations travel in the same direction as the waves and cause the rocks to push against each other. Shear waves travel about half as fast as compression waves. Their vibrations travel at right angles to the direction of the waves and cause the rocks to shake. Surface waves travel slightly more slowly than shear waves. They are confined to the earth's surface in much the same way that ocean waves are limited to the surface of the sea.

Seismic waves pass right through the earth in about 21 minutes. By measuring the speed of the waves, scientists can obtain some idea of the kinds of rocks that exists below the surface of the earth.

Seismologists locate an earthquake by noting the length of time seismic waves take to reach seismographic stations in various parts of the world. They draw circles on a map to show the distance of the earthquake from each of the stations. The seismologists know that the earthquake is located where the circles intersect one another. Most earthquakes have a focus less than 25 miles beneath the surface of the earth. A few take places at the earth's surface and some may occur at depths at great as 400 miles. The force that also caused mountains to be made causes of earthquakes. For these reasons, most large earthquakes occur along belts where new mountains, volcanoes and deep-sea trenches have been formed. Few earthquakes take place in the older, flat parts of continents and the deep sea floor. Most of the world's earthquakes occur in the circum-pacific belt, which follows the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Many earthquakes also take place in the alpine belt, which runs from Borneo to southern Europe. It includes the Himalayan, the Caucasus Mountains and the Alps. A seismic region such as California may expect a catastrophic earthquake once every 50 to 100 years.

Prediction

It is almost impossible to exactly predict the occurrence of an earthquake. But scientists do know the regions where earthquakes are likely to occur. They may use the history of previous earthquakes to guess how often a certain region may expect earthquakes. In earthquake belts, the earth continually undergoes adjustments. Scientists know that these adjustments will continue and that certain regions will occasionally have earthquakes of some kind. In such regions, engineers have designed houses and other structures that can withstand the most severe earthquake tremors.

Most earthquakes pass without being noticed. Small earthquakes may easily be mistaken for the rumbling of traffic on a road. But large, destructive earthquakes do occur from time to time. Most of the destruction takes place about ten seconds after the first tremor is felt. Most earthquake damage is indirect. The earthquake shakes a building and loosens the bricks in a chimney or wall, which then falls. Most of the damage occurs outside rather than inside buildings, water gushes out. They often knock down electric lines, break gas mains and cause great fires.

Great Earthquakes

Year

Location

Dead

1556

China

830,000

1755

Lisbon, Portugal

60,000 (Great sea wave)

1783

Southern Italy

60,000

1822

Aleppo, Syria

22,000

1897

Assam, India

1000

1905

Kangra, India

20,000

1906

San Francisco

700

1906

Valparaiso, Chile

1500

1907

Kingston, Jamaica

1100

1908

Messina, Italy

76,500

1920

Central China

200,000

1923

Central Japan

99,350

1935

Quetta Pakistan

56000

1939

Central Turkey

23000

1949

Ambato, Ecuador

6000

1950

Tibet and Burma

500

1960

Agadir, Morocco

15,000

1960

Southern Chile

2000

1963

Skopje, Yugoslavia

1200

Safety measures

The January 26 earthquake in Pakistan must have jolted everybody especially in Karachi having more high-rise buildings than any other city of Pakistan, which is certainly prone to more hazards. Even though it exists in books, building safety standard is non-existent in our country. Many builders obtain NOC without any proper inspection whatsoever. It is an open secret that material used by most builders is of very inferior quality, without realizing grave consequences afterwards, especially when severe earthquake jolts are felt.

Saleem Siddiqui from Karachi suggests that there must be frequent brief lectures over TV to explain what one should do during earthquakes, especially when one is in the building. Where he or she should stand or stay in the building when a quake is noticed. How to control small children and babies. Should the passenger lifts be used during the quake or not?

Referring to an American movie, Saleem said that an ongoing classroom was shown in the film. All of a sudden earthquake shook the class. The students were so trained and confident that they automatically and immediately stood up from their seats and took shelter underneath the tables in their class. There was absolutely no panic at all. After the Earthquake passed off they came out of their shelter (tables) and continued their remaining class as if nothing had happened.

If such types of Safety drills are frequently conducted / held in our schools, I am sure that we can cover a major part of our safety programme.

High-rise constructions

Dr. Shershah Syed yet another Karachiite stressed that it is time that Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD) should stop publishing appeals to the Chief Executive, asking permission for their illegal activities in Karachi in the name of construction and development of Karachi.

After the destruction of Ahmedabad and loss of human life we in Karachi can only hope that no earthquake will hit our city. ABAD, the provincial government, building authorities, KDA and KMC all are equally responsible for the concrete jungle of Karachi. When these buildings, God forbid will collapse on each other, these corrupt officers and the corrupt owners of different construction companies will also loose some of their friends and loved ones. We can only hope that this will never happen to our city but the forces of nature do not follow the hope and desire of individuals.

It is time that the Government should form a committee to look into construction of all buildings in Karachi and stop illegal anti-environment construction. It is time that we all help Shehri in organizing our city on sound, safe and healthy lives.

ABAD should help the government and citizens and not crave only for profits and put our children at risk. The civic bodies should also make contingencies plan, what will they do if something like Ahmedabad happens here?

Warning

The tremor of January 26 has evoked different sort of feelings among the citizens. Some have expressed gratitude for the kindness of the nature to spare Pakistan while others are stressing to take lesson from such eventualities. No doubt Karachi has been saved twice. Once when a cyclone moving with all its furies was diverted towards the Indian State of Gujrat sometimes back and now the earthquake loosing the hell for the unfortunate in the same states. We were saved because the lady luck was smiling but how long she would smile. We have to be careful.

Karachi is on a geological fault line, the rule regarding all multi-story buildings having quakeproof construction should have been enforced strictly by the KBCA. Despite the fact that most of high-rise buildings are prone to quake they do not conform to normal construction standards. A vast majority of them has been built in violation of the rules governing safety and environment.

In many cases high-rise buildings are located at a distance of a few yards from each other and do not have fire fighting and escape provisions. Millions of people living in them. God forbid if a quake of high intensity strikes Karachi, one can well imagine the horrendous disaster that would visit to this city. There is no rescue and medical machinery ready to face such an eventuality and handle mass casualties at short notice. Since an earthquake cannot be forecast precisely, the only option left is to be giving more emphasis to preparedness for expected earthquakes. Preparedness mostly concerns the safe construction of buildings, which can resist earthquake shocks. There should be provision for emergency exit in high rise buildings. In an earthquake prone city people should be imparted training to meet such eventualities and they should also have training in civil defence. One of the most important factors for safety of a building lies in its strong sewerage system. Unfortunately, most of the commercial builders and even individuals generally neglect the importance of the sewerage system in a multi-storied building. Sub-standard material used for sewerage lines usually goes out of order resulting in seepage of water beneath the foundations of a building, which makes even the best construction susceptible to the earth shocks.