Are we pre­pared to face the great earth­quake?

Views from Sri­na­gar

Pakistan Observer - - KASHIMIR - [Au­thor can be mailed at]

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.

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