Are we prepared to face the great earthquake?
Views from Srinagar
RMALIK ZAHRA KHALID UMORS have fueled fresh panic in the population of Kashmir that a massive earthquake is due and no one knows when it will strike. Local newspapers, almost as a campaign, in bold headlines have predicted a major earthquake which will affect majority of the population in Jammu and Kashmir State. In the absence of any government response to such reports and rumors, large-scale panic in the population is genuine.
Newspaper reports have quoted a study conducted by Oregon State University, which has indicated a major earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or more (on Richter) to hit J&K State. As we know that Srinagar city and other areas of Kashmir Valley are living in the high risk Seismic Zone V the panic is a usual response. It is the absence of any response from the administration that has fueled the rumor mills among the people.
The rumors are only compounding the worries of the vulnerable population of Srinagar city. The latest rumor is that the people of Srinagar should leave their homes and move to safer places like Ladakh.
Governor of J&K State N.N. Vohra has stepped in, being quicker than the civilian government to respond, and has urged Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to take time bound steps to face earthquake aftermath. Even though the popular opinion on earthquakes is that they are unpredictable, particularly those caused by tectonic plates – the Governor is right in presuming that it’s the government that has to deal with the disaster. The governor has written a letter to Chief Minister and has pointed to the failure of the state administration to deal with the aftermath of September 2014 floods. He has tried to alert the state government as the state administration was missing for a long time on previous disaster and the rescue operations in the quake-hit areas of Kashmir were extremely slow at the initial stage.
Governor in his letter, quoted in local newspapers has urged the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) to be in touch with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and start working for the management of a major earthquake as predicted by the scientists. He has also urged for creating an atmosphere to educate people about the impending dangers of earthquake and to prepare them for a crisis like situation. Even after his communication to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, there is no visible action from the State Government to deal with the reports of a major earthquake striking J&K state. The scientists have said that it is not the question of if, but when it will strike J&K state, touching the borders of certainty and bringing a fresh wave of panic in the population of Kashmir. Oregon State University report is the conclusion of the studies conducted by them after the latest geologic mapping in the Himalayan Mountains of the State. The study has said that at Reasi in Jammu region a fault has been building-up pressure for some time. Soon after the publication of this report in the local newspapers with bold headlines, panic has gripped the entire population as people still have the flashbacks of 2005 earthquake and of 2014 floods.
Worried population of twin cities of Jammu and Srinagar want the government to clear the air about the possibility of the predicted disaster in near future. But the Government’s silence and people’s worries are only making intense the anxiety and fear.
Senior State Geologist Prof. G.M. Bhat has been quoted in media reports that people should not be much worried and should not pay any attention to rumors. He said that they were studying the seismic activity inside the State through monitoring stations. He also claimed that a detailed disaster management report was submitted to the J&K Government two years back and no mechanism has been in place to deal with the situation if the earthquake hits J&K.
The governor has suggested that state government should immediately nominate some senior officer as Nodal authority to deal with the situation in post-quake period and get in touch with NDMA so that drills are held beforehand to minimize causalities. Amid such worries, the panic stricken population of Srinagar city will like to see the government stepping in and giving them at least some confidence to face such a disaster, in case it strikes in near future. Rumors in coming days will only increase in Kashmir valley; if the government will not break its silence over this burning issue, the lives of 60 lakh people may be affected, according to the survey conducted by the scientists. —Courtesy: Rising Kashmir.