How prepared are we for the big shake

The Saturday earthquake in Nepal was a tragic event. It caused massive damage to property. Death toll is rising by the day.

It is an urgent reminder to the Himalayan communities that sit on the major seismic zone.

The reports we get are shifting. We are yet to figure what magnitude of shock hit Nepal two days ago.

What we ought not to forget is that a shake bigger than 7.9 on the Richter scale is going to hit us sooner or later.  That is according to Seismic Gap theory. Fault lines that have not had an earthquake in the longest time are most at risk.

Bhutan sits almost on the centre of one of the three seismic zones – the Kashmir Gap in the west, Central Gap in Nepal, and Assam Gap in the east. These are areas where major earthquakes are expected to occur.

The 7.9 shake in Nepal (Central Gap) occurred as predicted. We are lucky that nothing serious happened to our country and our people this time.

But the question is what would have happened to us if the shake occurred in the Assam Gap?

The earthquakes in 2009 and 2011 hit us hard. We have not forgotten the pain it caused us. Lives were lost and properties worth millions lost. We would be lucky if we can watch unscathed the roiling rivers from the great lakes wash away the villages.

Our disaster management capacity is too small. It is running short of funds and other resources. Meanwhile, the buildings that are coming up like mushrooms in every Bhutanese landscape are getting taller each from the other.

For many building owners, however, earthquake safety is not a concern. Immediate rental earning is. This self-seeking attitude of ours will cost us dearly. Perhaps only then, when disasters come without mercy, we will wake up to realise that we did not do our part, each to our capacity.

When builders are honest and engineers less self-serving, our society will be that much safer. We are a nation that faces challenges myriad, GLOF being the serious of all. One big shake will cause damage that is beyond our imagination.

We know all these full well. But how prepared are we?

5 replies
  1. MIGNIEN
    MIGNIEN says:

    DISASTER in NEPAL
    In the forum topic , I gave some to day news ( MAY 1st ) about difficulties to Nepalese to get rescue things like food and medications.

    The congestionned airport of Katmandou has the same problem as PARO airport ; extend of PARO aiport is necessary .

  2. MIGNIEN
    MIGNIEN says:

    In my comment about “NOW IS THE TIME TO PREPARE” I quote the words of the senior searcher Peter Rüegg ( ETH Zurich ) in his article “NO LONGER A SAFE HAVEN” “in the long term , we would like to establish a permanent seismological observatory in Bhutan”
    When does the GVT will help the installation of this observatory ?

  3. logical
    logical says:

    MIGNIEN,
    We need not worry at all for new buildings in Bhutan with respect to government scrutiny. Observing the design and specification during implementation does all well for all new Buildings in the country. To the best of my knowledge, brick walls and furniture may fall off but the structures will not crumble like the displacement of loosely stacked piles of boulders. Severe shaking may cause some buildings to topple but that part is also kept in check limiting the heights to 6 stories (below 20m), checking the design for seismic resistance.

    Some OLD BUILDINGS need to be brought down to make sure there are minimum casualty to lives and properties. Peace.

  4. MIGNIEN
    MIGNIEN says:

    Why the GVT do not impose anti sismic rules to any new building ?; that is over the”immediat rental earning ” ; life of bhutannese depend of immediate application of thoses rules ; without those application , not any building licence can be given . Which departement give building licences ? Wake up policy makers . When eartquakes will happen , it will be to late . Remember 2009 and 2011 !

    Deaths and injuries must be avoid ; it is urgent to take decision and to check all new building / are they ready to support shake with less damage .

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