Dhaka most vulnerable

26 April 2015


Kazi Zahidul Hasan :
Bangladesh is ill prepared to tackle the aftermath of any strong earthquake. Five geological fault lines run through the country, exposing it to highly vulnerable of a major quake, say experts.
They suspect that if an earthquake with a 7.0 magnitude occurred in any large cities, there would be a major human tragedy due to the faulty structures of many buildings. Among the cities, Dhaka is most vulnerable to earthquake. Located on two fault-lines, Dhaka also ranks among the 20 cities most vulnerable to earthquake in the world.
A major earthquake jolted capital Dhaka and other parts of the country shaking twice in the span of half an hour on Saturday afternoon.
The jolt was felt shortly after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck an area between the Nepalese capital Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara, the US Geological Survey said. According to a government study, some 78,323 buildings will be destroyed completely if a 6-magnitude earthquake shakes Dhaka originating from Madhupur Fault (near Dhaka city), causing havoc in the densely populated capital city.
In case of a 7.5-magnitude earthquake originating from Madhupur Fault, some 72,316 buildings in the capital will be damaged totally and 53,166 others partially.
"If an 8.5-magnitude tremor from the plate boundary of Fault-2 hits the region, some 238,164 buildings will be destroyed completely across the country," added the study.
Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) under the Food and Disaster Management Ministry conducted the study from February 2008 to August 2009.
Dr Syed Humayun Akther, Chairman, Department Geology at Dhaka University, told The New Nation on Saturday that Bangladesh is sitting at a high risk earthquake zone and an unprecedented human disaster may occur anytime for even a moderate to heavy tremor.
Referring to three major earthquakes of the region, he said a powerful earthquake needs at least 100-150 years to be originated for a particular region and in that sense it is overdue for Bangladesh.
"As 112 years have already been elapsed since a heavy tremor from Dawki Fault hit the region, exposing Bangladesh to highly vulnerable of a powerful earthquake," he added.
He further said that numbers of moderate to heavy earthquakes are overdue for some parts of the country, including the capital. So, time has come to get ready for the possible disasters by raising awareness.
When asked, he said, Dhaka is one of the earthquake vulnerable city among other major cities due to its unplanned urbanisation.
Dr Humayun urged the government to demolish Dhaka's old and risky buildings to minimize casualties in such disasters. Besides, causalities and damages could also be minimized though strict enforcement of the Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC).
"A mass awareness should be created as part of earthquake preparedness," he added.  He also urged the government to procure necessary equipment for carrying out rescue operation after any earthquake.
The government has already procured some equipment to conduct search and rescue operation after disasters, which is inadequate to address any earthquake aftermath, he said.
 "Nepal earthquake signals that a powerful earthquake might also take place in Bangladesh anytime," feared Dr. ASM Maksud Kamal, Dean of Faculty of Earth and Environmental Sciences of Dhaka University. He added: Dhaka sited on two fault-lines is vulnerable to earthquakes with several small quakes occurred over the last three years. If a quake of lower magnitude lasts for a minute it may destroy 80-90 per cent of the concrete structures in the city.
"Mass awareness should be created among the city dwellers about earthquake. The government can make people aware about earthquake through television programmes. It should also arrange earthquake demonstration so that people can learn how to escape from a devastating earthquake," he said. Apart from this, a proper gas leakage management, power supply control, firefighting, alternative power generation, wireless communication system, heavy equipment for removing debris and emergency clinical facilities are necessary to address earthquake aftermath.

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