Let’s prepare before it’s too late


It is said that there is no place on earth where earthquake up to magnitude 6 cannot occur. Thus, it can occur almost anywhere. But it is well known that earthquakes are most common around the edges of the great tectonic plates of the earth’s crust and earthquakes in these areas are deadly.

Two-third of the continental crust is seismically active, that means about one billion people in this beautiful earth are living on seismic disaster prone area. As a record, in 1556 one earthquake in China had claimed lives of about 830,000 people. If we look at the statistics of past three centuries, more than three million people have been killed due to the earthquake and its related disasters.

The awareness and risk reduction programme called ‘National Earthquake Safety Day’ started on January 16, 1998 to avoid repeating the destruction and loss of life caused by the 1934 earthquake. At present, though, the growing population, haphazard urbanisation, and unregulated construction of thousands of poorly made buildings have greatly increased the risk. How will we meet this challenge?

The answer is that it will take all of us — scientists, non-scientists, government, NGOs, INGOs, private sector, media, and civil society — working together for earthquake risk reduction. It will take improvements in how we use electronic, newspaper, TV and social media to make common citizens aware of the hazard and how to prepare. It will take improving and enforcing the building code. It will take training and strengthening communities, hospitals, emergency services, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and the Nepal Army to prepare before, and to provide rescue after the earthquake. It will require teaching students and strengthening our schools. It will also require preparing trained quick response team and quick rescue team.

There is much work to do. This is the message from the April 25, 2015, Gorkha Earthquake also. Let’s intensify the integrated effort to spread awareness and prepare before it is too late, and also concentrate on the work of reconstruction as per the theme of this year’s 18th earthquake safety day — ‘Baishakh 12 Ma Gaihalyo Bhuinchalo, Surakhsit Pun Nirmanma Jutne Aba Hamro Palo’.

(The author is the Chief at National Seismological Centre, Department of Mines and Geology)