WEB DESK: The earthquake that hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Fata, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and northern Punjab was a stark reminder that Pakistan is sitting on an active seismic zone.
At least five people were killed and another 55 injured. Considering that it was a high magnitude upheaval, measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale, it would have caused widespread deaths and destruction but for the fact that its epicenter was the Hindukush region in remote north-eastern Afghanistan. The area is close to its border with Tajikistan at a depth of 236km. Notably, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in 2005 that claimed more than 73,000 lives and rendered an estimated 3.5 million people homeless, had a shallow focal depth and its epicenter was located just 15 kilometres from Muzzafarabad.
According to geological experts, the Subcontinent is moving northwards on a collision course with the Eurasian plate lifting the Himalayan region and increasing the probability of earthquakes. Of particular concern are the fault lines passing under the Kashmir region and the Margalla Hills. Coastal areas around Karachi are also located on a fault line. This calls for a greater sense of preparedness. All the more so considering that high rise structures are sprouting all over the major cities, including Islamabad and Lahore.
It may be recalled that during the 2005 earthquake the houses and schools that came down in Azad Kashmir and adjoining areas of KPK were built on weak foundations. And in Islamabad some of the high rise residential buildings that suffered most damage were found to have ignored the existing construction regulations. Also, the by-laws pertaining to normal safety measures, such as fire escapes and emergency exit in the event of an earthquake, are routinely ignored. To make a bad situation worse, unplanned construction in fast expanding cities is making it more and more difficult for the rescue people to access trouble spots in the event of a fire or a building collapse caused by earthquake.
It is about time governments both at the centre and in the provinces recognize the impending threats of earthquakes that officials of the Geological Survey of Pakistan have been pointing to. They need to learn from the experiences of other countries, such as Japan, where seismic tremors are a frequent phenomenon. Quake resistant construction regulations ought to be strictly implemented, and the people made aware of the necessary precautionary measures to avoid preventable loss to life and property. The National Disaster Management Authority must also get its act together. So far it seems to be complacent issuing warnings of an impending disaster and afterwards giving out details of the losses, like in the case of recent torrential rains and landslides. It should be properly equipped and prepared to deal with emergencies in a timely fashion.
Source: Business Recorder