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Wake up call for NE

27 Apr. 2015 12:32 AM IST

Death and devastation befell the picturesque valleys and mountains of the country as the earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, and with a depth of 10 km beneath the ground made buildings collapse, roads crack, and internet and phone lines snap, and triggered an avalanche in the Himalayas. On Sunday Nepal suffered an after shock when a strong tremor measuring 6.7 magnitude on the Richter Scale rocked the country and adding to the human tragedy left behind after Saturday’s earthquake. So far the toll has crossed over 2000 and unofficially, it was believed to be much higher. Authorities in Nepal fear that the toll could treble when rescue and recovery operations fully get underway. According to seismologists, the epicentre of the quake was the district of Lamjung, located 75 km northwest of Kathmandu. The district has a population of a little over 1.8 lakh, according to 2001 figures. Besisahar, the headquarters of the Lamjung district was one of the worst affected areas, along with the cities of Kathmandu, Bharatpur, Pokhara and Kirtipur. The most affected area was Kathmandu which has a little of ten lakh population. The high rise buildings in the Nepalese capital did not have adequate earthquake-proof framework and materials and as a result, most of those who were killed, died when the structures collapsed. The iconic Dharhara tower and the landmark Darbar Square in Kathmandu were flattened. Even the remote Himalayas were affected when tremors triggered massive avalanches. More than 60 climbers were injured and hundreds of foreign adventurers, hikers and guides at the base camp were feared missing when the avalanche swept down the Everest and buried under snow a section of the mountaineering camp on Saturday. With so many people dead and many times the number injured and probably ten times the number being forced to take shelter in makeshift camps; the tragedy in Nepal continues to remain a terrible misery. Food cannot be reached to most parts as roads have been severely damaged and drinking water sources cut off. In addition, people are left to fend for themselves at night, without warm clothes or electricity. The tragedy in Nepal also serves as a reminder on people living in the north east of India, about their vulnerability. According to seismologists, the entire north east is located under Zone 5, which is considered as having the highest risk factors. The Mercalli Scale(MKS) defines the intensity while Richer defines magnitude. The Nepal quake was at grade XI in the Mercalli and 7.9 in the Richter scales. In the north east, the prediction is that the high intensity earthquake would be in the region of IX on the Mercalli scale and 7 on the Richter Scale. People may be forcibly thrown to the ground. Earthquake having magnitude of 7 to 8 Richter scale would caused waves on the soft ground, substandard structures to collapse, ground fractures and widespread landslides. The most recent earthquake that hit the north east was in 2011 in Sikkim which had a moment magnitude of 6.9 R, centered within the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, near the border of Nepal. Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal exposed how unprepared the country was for disaster management. This should serve an alarm about a need for awareness among people and for the state government to contemplate steps on what needs to be done when earthquake strikes.

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