Steps to minimise quake impact must

Steps to minimise quake impact must

Earthquakes have occurred too frequently across the globe in the recent past for anybody’s comfort. This week’s quake in Ecuador, which took over 600 lives, was the latest in a series of temblors that struck Myanmar, Japan, Indonesia and Afghanistan. Many places in North India across the Himalayan region and the North East also experienced tremors of varying intensities. The frequency of earthquakes has led to speculation that the earth is entering into a quake mode, though geologists have said the recent quakes are well within the normal range. But the unpredictability of earthquakes, the absence of any means to prevent them or to tackle them when they occur and the huge damage they can inflict within seconds make them major threats. The Central government recently added 81 new towns and cities to quake-prone areas, bringing the total to 107. They cover the North East and many towns in Bihar, Gujarat and Kashmir. The 2014 quake in Nepal has also added to the worries.Since there is no defence against earthquakes what is best needed is to be prepared against them. To be prepared is to adopt both long term and short term measures to minimise their impact on lives and property.

The crowded and congested Indian urban areas with haphazard constructions, poorly built slum tenements and tall high-rises will turn death traps if a major earthquake occurs. Disaster management will be a major challenge. It will be extremely difficult to undertake rescue and relief operations in our towns which are witnessing unplanned growth. New architectural styles with safer building designs and materials will have to be adopted. Countries like Japan where such building methods are the norm have managed to minimise the number of casualties and damage caused by earthquakes. In India, no initiatives have been taken to create awareness among the people about the need to go in for quake-resistant buildings. The government and official agencies do not set examples also.

Disaster management agencies and personnel are not trained properly in undertaking rescue and relief operations specific to earthquakes. More importantly, common people are not educated on the do’s and don’ts to be kept in mind. The highest level of preparedness is needed in crowded places like educational institutions, hospitals, markets and other public places. There is the need for monitoring preparedness and sustaining the vigil. There is no need to create panic, but it is necessary to spread awareness among the people in the quake-prone areas of the country. The quake may or may not happen, but it is best to be prepared.

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