Name fixing Meteorologists would probably call the
latest Iranian Earthquake as "Ghia" (Arabic for Devastation
plus) ZAMEEN AST (Persian for, on this earth). The official toll in
Iranian Seismos (Greek for earthquake) is 30,000 dead minus two the
latest survivors. Surprisingly earthquake of nearly similar intensity
which struck California caused damaged to very few buildings as compared
to total city wipe out in Iran.
Why is it so? If you ask this question to George Bush
probably he would say" God loves Americans more".
And probably some fundamentalist may opine, Those
whom God loves the most makes an early return".
A professor of civil engineering department may
pronounce verdict of non-engineered structural construction of mud
houses in city of Bam.
Will we be the next on hit list ? Only God knows.
Earthquakes are considered to be the most destructive
among all the natural hazards. Most of the time, they occur without any
signal, this makes them most feared and unpredictable natural phenomena.
On an average two earthquakes of magnitude 8 on Richter scale are known
to occur every year. Countries like Japan, China, Turkey, Algeria, Iran
and United States have suffered several damaging earthquakes.
One of the explanation given in Funk & Wagnall's
new encyclopedia is that earthquake are vibrations produced in the
earth's crust when rocks in which elastic strain has been building up
suddenly rupture, and then rebound. These vibrations can range from
barely noticeable to catastrophically destructive as was in case of Bam.
In Tokyo for example number of times you can feel the
vibrations and would make one nervous if he is staying in a high rise
It is said that human can induce earthquakes through
a variety of activities such as underground detonation of atomic bombs
so if you plan to settle in Nevada (American state known for underground
atomic detonations) change your mind.
Another destructive effect of earthquake is the
generation of tidal waves also called as seismic sea waves or their
Japanese name tsunami.
Beware, says the scientists to live in buildings that
have been constructed on filled ground. ( Avoid buildings near sea
When subjected to shock waves of a quake, soil used
in " land fill may lose all its bearing strength and act like quick
sand. Building resting on these materials get swallowed up as was
demonstrated in Japan, Sanfrancisco.
History tell us that the worst earthquake in recent
human history struck in China in 1976 near the city of Tang Shan causing
more than half a million deaths.
The units of intensity commonly used is named after
American seismologist Charles Francis Richter. This scale measures the
intensity of the energy released at the focus of the quake. It runs from
1 to 9.
The other scale developed by Italian Mercalli
measures the intensity of shaking with gradations from I to XII. 8 to 9
on Richter scale can be correlated to XI and XII of Mercalli scale.
ANALYSIS OF OUR WEAKNESS AND THREATS:
BUILDING CODES LACKING.
Is Karachi Building Control authority really
monitoring the building codes implementation? Big question mark.
Building codes are the public's first line of defense
against earthquakes. The codes specify the levels of earthquake forces
that structures must be designed to withstand. As ground lessons have
been learned about how buildings are damaged in earthquakes, the minimum
earthquake requirements specified in building codes have been improved
in civilized world.
One of the hot issues here is the use of substandard
building material specially the reinforcement steel bars. There has been
some research work to suggest that reinforcement bars produced out of
ship plates, ingots do not match in terms of mechanical properties with
that of reinforcement bars rolled out of prime quality billets.
Also the Fatigue strength of the bars (which is very
rarely determined by constructors, designers, architects, engineers
here) do not have enough endurance cycles to give a safe structure.
Further the proportion of steel to cement which normally constructor
manipulates is again a grey area
Similarly the Design Codes followed decades back may
have structural weakness making old buildings more liable to fail, if
earthquake struck here.
PREDICTION: HOW FAR CAN IT BE TRUE?
The research indicates that geological mapping of an
area is the first step towards the surface and subsurface investigation
of a region. The accuracy of these investigations decides the prediction
accuracy before an earthquake and also the post earthquake control and
reduction measures. Also "Remote sensing and air photogrammetry is
of immense potential at the reconnaissance stage of the mapping. Now it
is possible to map the inaccessible regions through the
With the advent of Geoinformatics revolutionary
change has been brought in these investigations. Soft wares are
available for the geological mapping of the area. They are highly useful
in the speedy and accurate execution of mapping work.
Media can play a great role in educating the masses.
Some Do's and Don'ts are:
If you look at recommendations of Federal Emergency
Management Agency website (FEMA) this is what you will find.
BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE STRIKES:
•Pick "safe places" in each room of your
home. A safe place could be under a sturdy table or desk or against an
interior wall away from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture that could
fall on you. The shorter the distance to move to safety, the less likely
you will be injured. Injury statistics show that people moving as little
as 10 feet during an earthquake's shaking are most likely to be injured.
Also pick safe places, in your office, school and other buildings you
are frequently in.
•Protect your eyes by keeping your head down.
•If you must leave a building after the shaking
stops, use the stairs, not the elevator. As a precaution, use the
•If you're outside in an earthquake, stay outside.
Move away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines. Crouch
down and cover your head. Many injuries occur within 10 feet of the
entrance to buildings. Bricks, roofing, and other materials can fall
from buildings, injuring persons nearby. Trees, streetlights, and power
lines may also fall, causing damage or injury.
•Discuss earthquakes with your family. Everyone
should know what to do in case all family members are not together.
Discussing earthquakes ahead of time helps reduce fear and anxiety and
lets everyone know how to respond. (Probably we can discuss in late
night weddings which are quiet common these days)
•Talk with your insurance agent. Different areas
have different requirements for earthquake protection. Study locations
of active faults, and if you are at risk, consider purchasing earthquake
PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY:
•Secure items that might fall (televisions, books,
computers, etc.). Falling items can cause damage or injury.
•Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors,
away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit. Earthquakes can knock
things off walls, causing damage or injury. During earthquakes, overhead
light fixtures are the most common items to fall, causing damage or
•Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations.
Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects. Earthquakes
can turn cracks into ruptures and make smaller problems bigger.
•Consider having your building evaluated by a
professional structural design engineer. Ask about home repair and
strengthening tips for exterior features, such as porches, front and
back decks, sliding glass doors, canopies, carports, and garage doors.
Learn about additional ways you can protect your home. A professional
can give you advice on how to reduce potential damage.
•Follow local seismic building standards and safe
land use codes that regulate land use along fault lines. Some
municipalities, counties, and states have enacted codes and standards to
protect property and occupants. Learn about your area's codes before
construction. ( There will be problem finding such codes here)
DURING AN EARTHQUAKE:
•It is very dangerous to try to leave a building
during an earthquake because objects can fall on you. Many fatalities
occur when people run outside of buildings, only to be killed by falling
debris from collapsing walls.
•If you are in bed, in a building built with proper
design code hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow.
You are less likely to be injured staying where you are. Broken glass on
the floor has caused injury to those who have rolled to the floor or
tried to get to doorways.
•If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from
buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines. Drop to the ground and
stay there until the shaking stops. Injuries can occur from falling
trees, street-lights and power lines, or building debris.
•If you are in a vehicle, pull over to a clear
location, stop and stay there with your seatbelt fastened until the
shaking has stopped. Trees, power lines, poles, street signs, and other
overhead items may fall during earthquakes. Stopping will help reduce
your risk, and a hard-topped vehicle will help protect you from flying
or falling objects. Once the shaking has stopped, proceed with caution.
Avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged by the quake.
•Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you're
sure it's safe to exit. More injuries happen when people move during the
shaking of an earthquake. After the shaking has stopped, if you go
outside, move quickly away from the building to prevent injury from
•Stay away from windows. Windows can shatter with
such force that you can be injured several feet away.
We have special links with Iran, Turkey, Algeria and
India also falling in the club. They are known to be earthquake friendly
countries and have learned ground lessons. Let's adopt a joint strategy
of knowledge sharing specially in mapping and use of software for better
evaluation. I am sure Higher Education Commission can allocate some fund
for more research. A team comprising of Geologists, Civil Engineer,
Architect and Material Scientist and Meteorologist can be set up as a
Task force to classify our country into five zones according to
COMSTECH can play a useful role in funding research.
As most of the Muslim countries are in the HIT LIST.
In the end I would request KBCA to issue a
certificate that all buildings in Karachi are safe and can stand 8.0
intensity on Richter scale. And in case we become victim what will the
controller say when we meet again. SORRY?