FIELD RE­PORT

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - HTMETRO - Ee­shan­priya M S

MUM­BAI: Of late, res­i­dents of Da­hanu and Talasari talukas in Pal­ghar dis­trict have been stay­ing away from their homes, brav­ing the chilly nights in makeshift tents. Par­ents don’t let chil­dren go to school, and if they do, ac­com­pany them to and from the schools ev­ery day.

These, ac­cord­ing to the res­i­dents, are the safety mea­sures they need to take against the phys­i­cal and men­tal tremors they’ve been sub­jected to for the past three months.

More than 1,000 earthquakes of mild-to-medium mag­ni­tude on the Richter scale have rocked Da­hanu and Talasari since Novem­ber 3 last year, ac­cord­ing to data from the Na­tional Cen­tre for Seis­mol­ogy (NCS) un­der the Min­istry of Earth Sciences. These con­stant tremors have cre­ated a sense of un­cer­tainty and fear among lo­cal res­i­dents and have kept the state govern­ment on its toes. Apart from the harsh cold, the lo­cals have to be wary of mos­qui­toes, snakes and scor­pi­ons, when sleep­ing in the tents as a pre­cau­tion against build­ing col­lapses.

The NCS has set up three seis­mo­graphs — an in­stru­ment that mea­sures and records de­tails of earth­quake — in the two talukas. Six­teen of the 1,000 earthquakes mea­sured above three on the scale, which af­fected more than 30,000 people from 17 vil­lages and dam­aged at least 1,300 homes.

Ac­cord­ing to the Pal­ghar dis­trict col­lec­tor’s of­fice, the earthquakes have af­fected an area mea­sur­ing 10km in di­am­e­ter, around the earth­quake’s epi­cen­tre.

The epi­cen­tre, 3-5km be­low the sur­face, was recorded at Dhun­dal­wadi vil­lage in Da­hanu.

The big­gest tremor was recorded on Fe­bru­ary 1, at 3.6. Dr Vi­neet Ku­mar Ga­ha­laut, NCS di­rec­tor, said, “On the same day, more than 600 tremors were recorded in 24 hours, at least four of which were above three on the Richter scale.” The phe­nom­e­non is called ‘earth­quake swarm’ where sev­eral low-mag­ni­tude tremors are felt one af­ter the other. Ac­cord­ing to Ga­ha­laut, swarms usu­ally do not have the ca­pac­ity to dev­as­tate homes or cause dis­as­ters such as land­slides.

Ear­lier last week, the Pal­ghar dis­trict col­lec­tor said a fault line — a break in the earth’s sur­face where quakes usu­ally oc­cur — was de­tected in the af­fected area.

Prashant Nar­naware, col­lec­tor of Pal­ghar, said, “The homes in these vil­lages are mostly katcha homes. Over the past three months, sev­eral of the houses have de­vel­oped deep cracks in the walls, beams and pil­lars of their struc­tures.” A to­tal of 1,500 homes were in­spected by the dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Mean­while, at least 42 lo­ca­tions were iden­ti­fied across these two talukas, where tents have been set up. The col­lec­tor has put in place an emer­gency med­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture for each vil­lage — which in­cludes a tent, a mo­tor­cy­cle am­bu­lance and four-wheeler am­bu­lance.

Ac­cord­ing to the dis­trict’s disas­ter man­age­ment plan, lo­cals have been ad­vised not to sleep in­side their homes, while schools have been ad­vised not to take lec­tures in class­rooms. As of Novem­ber, when the first tremor was felt, at­ten­dance in schools has fallen by more than 60%. The three res­i­den­tial schools around Dhun­dal­wadi have bunk beds set up in makeshift tents on the school play­grounds. Classes for those kids who have re­mained be­hind are con­ducted in the school play­grounds. Dat­ta­tray Borse, a teacher at the govern­ment-run Dhun­dal­wadi Pri­mary, Sec­ondary Res­i­den­tial school, said, “More than 50% of the chil­dren in our school have stopped at­tend­ing lec­tures. We have 689 stu­dents, of which 400 stay in the school hos­tel. Most of these stu­dents were taken home by their par­ents.”

Sim­i­larly, Babasa­heb Pawar, prin­ci­pal, So­maiyya Trust Res­i­den­tial school, in Naresh­wadi near Dhun­dal­wadi said, “Par­ents pre­fer tak­ing their chil­dren to work with them, than leave them here at school, or even alone at home dur­ing the day. At­ten­dance in our school has dropped by 60% dur­ing the first two months. Now, 40% of the stu­dents are ab­sent.”

On the other hand, lo­cal res­i­dents are set­ting store by be­liefs, such as “fate will take its own course no mat­ter what pre­cau­tions we take”, or that “we have to watch for the quakes on Fri­day and Satur­day, and then they [the tremors] would leave us alone for the rest of the week”.

Fam­i­lies cook in the open, feed in the open, sleep on the katcha streets of the vil­lage, and re­as­sure each other in the mid­dle of the night if they feel a tremor.

San­tosh Bhoye, a res­i­dent of Dhun­dal­wadi, said, “My wife, two chil­dren, and four neigh­bour­ing fam­i­lies all sleep in a tent in the night. Some­times we sleep on the road, but it is very cold in the night.”

Deepika Mere, one of Bhoye’s neigh­bours, said, “Those who have cots have moved them to the road. Some of us bought fold­ing cots, so we don’t have to sleep on the floor. There are a lot of poi­sonous crea­tures in the field.”

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