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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
60,000 (Great sea wave)
Tibet and Burma
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
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
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.
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?
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