Sinlung /
27 April 2015

Northeast Fails To Learn Quake Lessons

National Disaster Response Force personnel from India carry out rescue operations in Kathmandu on Sunday. (PTI)
Guwahati, Apr 27 : Vulnerability warnings seem to have not woken up authorities to the threat of earthquakes, though two tremors shook Assam and the Northeast in the past 48 hours.

The Assam State Disaster Management Authority today said many schools, hospitals and government buildings have neglected safety measures even after a joint survey by Assam Engineering College in July last year revealed structural vulnerability.

"Since Assam is located in the seismically active Zone V, we had surveyed 600 schools and 40 hospitals, mostly in Guwahati, and identified those having structural and non-structural vulnerability. Following the survey, we had issued notices and requested them to take up safety measures, including retrofitting solution for buildings with structural problem. But very few have taken measures suggested by civil engineers. We have seen the devastation in Nepal and must take measures necessary to reduce the impact in case of a disaster here," chief executive officer of the authority, P.K. Tiwari, said. Tiwari is also commissioner and secretary of the state revenue and disaster management department.

Some buildings in Guwahati, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Majuli developed cracks following yesterday's quake that wrecked havoc in Nepal. A quake measuring 7.6 on Richter scale jolted the Northeast this afternoon as well. But no damage was reported till the filing of this report.

Tiwari said many earthquakes measuring over three on Richter scale had hit the state since February. "The survey found some hospitals blocking their balconies with an almirah or other furniture. How will the rescue personnel reach them in case a disaster strikes? Stocks of blood and medicine bottles are kept in the almirah and in case of a quake these items will get damaged. The emergency support equipment in the ICUs are kept without any strong protection, so if they stop functioning during a quake, imagine what will happen to the critically ill patients," Tiwari said.

"We had served many deadlines to the schools and hospitals and will carry out another inspection and issue notices to make sure they take necessary measures. We are repeatedly spreading the message of vulnerability but people must also understand and take necessary safety measures. Retrofitting solution is costly and time consuming but they can at least go for other non-structural safety measures," he said.

The survey report released in August last year revealed about 34 per cent of schools in Guwahati had major structural vulnerability, 10 per cent located on the hills are vulnerable to slope failure/landslide, 5 per cent are vulnerable to floods and 74 per cent schools have non-structural vulnerability.

"Twenty schools and five hospitals in other parts of the state surveyed were found with structural vulnerability to earthquake. Even many deputy commissioner offices in the districts were found having structural problems and lacking disaster management facilities," he said.

Tiwari said the government departments were yet to prepare their own disaster management plans, which is compulsory under Section 14 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. "This issue was raised in the state executive committee meeting recently and each department was asked to make their disaster management plan within July this year," he said.

Kamrup (metro) deputy commissioner M. Angamuthu said they would issue showcause notices tomorrow to mobile companies on complaints of phone towers erected without following safety norms.

Before quake
Develop an emergency plan with a kit containing food, water, prescription medicines, first-aid, radio, flashlight, extra batteries, sturdy shoes and clothes
During quake
Remain calm.
If indoors, duck under sturdy furniture and hold onto it. If you can’t, move to a wall or archway and sit with your back to the wall, bring knees to your chest and cover your head
Stay away from mirrors and windows and don’t exit the building during quake
If outdoors, move to an open area away from structures such as bridges and power lines
If in a vehicle, stop in an open area away from all structures
After quake
Stay calm and count 60 seconds before moving
Move cautiously, check unstable objects and damaged buildings.
Anticipate aftershock
Listen to radio or TV for emergency information


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