US forecast of impending mega quake worries Kashmiris

Last Updated : 10 December 2011, 13:27 IST
Last Updated : 10 December 2011, 13:27 IST

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Local newspapers carried front page stories about Roger Bilham of Colorado University predicting a major earthquake in Kashmir that could trigger landslides which would dam the Jhelum river and  plunge the valley under water.

The prediction also said that once released, the waters would cause major floods in Pakistan.

"The two nations should develop a cooperative plan to deal with the aftermath of a Kashmir mega quake," Bilham's study has advised.

The US professor has said his new global positioning system (GPS) data readings reveal the gradual movement of rocks in the Zanskar mountains north of the valley, and that the earlier estimates of the maximum possible quake in the region were low.

In its typical doomsday forecast, the study warns: "The zone would rupture when a quake eventually happens. The quake would be 200 kilometres wide as against 80 kilometres predicted earlier."

"The zone would encompass the Kashmir Valley, including the Srinagar city with its 1.5 million strong population," it said.

"If slippage occurs over a length of 300 kilometres, as is possible, a mega quake of magnitude-9 is likely to occur. Given building codes and population in the region, it could mean a death toll of 300,000 people," the study added.

Bilham has, however, put no timeframe for his predictions.

M.I. Bhat, a senior local geologist, told IANS: "As Bilham has said, earlier we believed that the Kashmir Valley was vulnerable to  destruction from quakes generated along the Pir Panchal mountain range. But with availability of the GPS data from the region, it is now evident that the northeastern side of the valley is more vulnerable to earthquake generation than the Pir Panchal range."

The average Kashmiri, unable to understand the scientific data, is highly perturbed by the reports.

"That would be the end of the world for us if what the US seismologist has said would actually happen," said Bashir Ahmad War, a retired veterinarian here.

Other locals are perhaps not as philosophical as War. The publication of the frightening forecast has rattled them.

"We can only wait for our destiny to happen as it is ordained. Kashmir has always been devastated by earthquakes in the past," said Mehraj-ud-din, a fruit seller in the Residency Road area of Srinagar.

Said Javaid Shah, a local newspaper editor: "How can anyone escape the disaster if it is actually going to occur."

Whether or not the doomsday forecast comes true, the US seismologist's study has become a topic of hot discussion in Kashmir.

Over 40,000 people were killed across the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir and Pakistan-administered parts of Kashmir in an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter Scale in 2005.

Published 10 December 2011, 13:25 IST

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