Earthquakes (Disaster Management)

Earthquakes (Disaster Management)

This article deals with ‘Earthquakes (Disaster Management).’ This is part of our series on ‘Disaster Management’, an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Earthquakes (Disaster Management)

The sudden release of energy in Earth’s crust, which leads to a series of motions due to waves created by the released energy, is called Earthquake. 

Earthquake Prone Regions

  • Tectonic Activity: The Himalayas are still evolving and adjusting to ongoing tectonic movements. The collision between the Indian plates and Eurasian tectonic plates creates immense pressure, resulting in frequent seismic activity in this region. The Himalayas are considered one of the most earthquake-prone regions in the world.
Himalayas- Why are they Earthquake Prone?
  • Gulf of Khambhat and Rann in Western Gujarat: The movement of the Arabian Plate against the Indian Plate contributes to seismic events.
  • Parts of Peninsular India, particularly along the Bhima Fault represented by the river Bhima near Latur, also experience significant seismic activity.
  • The islands of Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands are prone to earthquakes due to their proximity to major tectonic boundaries.
Mercalli Scale and India

Examples of Earthquakes

Some Great Earthquakes occurred in India.

1819: Gujarat 8.3 It caused widespread devastation
1897: Assam 8.7 This event led to extensive liquefaction in the alleviated plains of the Brahmaputra River.
1934: Bihar-Nepal 8.4 The impact of this earthquake was severe, with extensive liquefaction occurring and buildings tilting and slumping into the ground.
1967: Koyna 6.5 The construction of the Koyna Dam induced an earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale. The region was relatively aseismic before the dam’s construction in 1962. However, after the dam’s completion, seismic activity increased significantly.

Impact of Earthquake

Earthquake is a natural hazard. The following are the immediate hazardous effects of Earthquakes:

  • Ground Shaking 
  • Land and mudslides
  • Soil liquefaction. 
  • Ground lurching 
  • Avalanches 
  • Ground displacement 
  • Floods from dam and levee failures 
  • Fires.
  • Structural collapse
  • Falling objects
  • Tsunami.
  • Change in the course of the river
  • Human and property loss
  • Cracks in building 

Importance of Preparedness in Earthquakes

  • Disaster Preparedness is most important in case of Earthquakes because it can save a lot of lives. 
  • The most devastating earthquakes in terms of casualties are not necessarily the ones with the highest magnitudes on the Richter scale. Other factors, such as population density, building infrastructure, and preparedness levels, play a significant role in determining the outcome of an earthquake. The Haiti earthquake of 2010, measuring 7 on the Richter scale, serves as a tragic example. It claimed the lives of approximately 316,000 people due to a combination of factors, including a densely populated area and insufficient preparedness measures. 

Ways to deal with Earthquake

1. Disaster Risk Reduction (Before Earthquake)

1.1 Earthquake Resistant Buildings

  • Earthquake Resistant Buildings: Constructing buildings that can withstand seismic forces is crucial. Currently, around 80% of houses in India are not Earthquake resistant. Enhancing building standards and promoting earthquake-resistant construction techniques can significantly reduce casualties 
  • In the Bhuj Earthquake of 2001, RC buildings collapsed just an Earthquake of 7 on the Richter scale when RC buildings should stand up to 7.5

1.2 Seismic Codes

  •  India has a range of seismic codes that provide guidelines for constructing earthquake-resistant structures. However, enforcement of these codes is often lacking. Strengthening the implementation and enforcement of seismic codes is necessary to ensure the safety of buildings. 

1.3 Early Warning Systems

  • Developing and implementing early warning systems can provide valuable seconds to minutes of advance notice before an earthquake strikes. These systems use sensors to detect seismic waves and issue alerts, allowing people to take immediate protective actions and evacuate if necessary. 

1.4 Preparing Vulnerability Maps

  • Creating vulnerability maps of earthquake-prone areas can help identify higher-risk regions and guide decision-making processes. 

1.5 Educating People on How to Respond

  • Conducting mock drills and training sessions in highly vulnerable areas can educate people on earthquake response strategies. 

2. Disaster Response (During Earthquake)

2.1 Fast Response 

  • The time window for rescuing survivors after an earthquake is often narrow. Prompt response by emergency services is crucial. Establishing effective communication channels, coordinating rescue efforts, and deploying trained personnel quickly can increase the chances of saving lives.

2.2 Rescue Operations

  •  Immediate focus should be on clearing debris and locating individuals who are trapped or in need of help. Efforts should be made to find and extract survivors efficiently using specialized equipment and search-and-rescue techniques.

2.3 Relief

  • Providing temporary shelters, medical assistance, and essential supplies to injured individuals is essential. Ensuring that relief camps maintain proper hygiene standards is important to prevent the spread of diseases and minimize casualties. 

3. Recovery and Rehabilitation (After Earthquake)

3.1 Build Back Better

  • Build Back Better: After an earthquake, reconstruction efforts should aim to “build back better.” It involves incorporating seismic-resistant design principles and construction techniques in the rebuilding process. Learning from successful examples, like the reconstruction programs in Bhuj, India, can help create models for earthquake-resistant construction in other affected areas.

3.2 Psychological Services

  • Earthquakes can cause immense psychological trauma for those who have lost loved ones or witnessed the destruction. Providing psychological support services to affected individuals can aid in their recovery and help them cope with the emotional impact of the disaster.  

Case Study: Japan Model 

Japan is located in a seismically active region known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, making it highly prone to earthquakes. Over the years, Japan has developed an exemplary model of earthquake management that combines proactive measures, technological advancements, and public awareness. 

  1. Earthquake-Resistant Buildings: Japanese engineers and architects have devised innovative techniques and building codes to ensure structures can withstand seismic forces.
  2. Mock Drills: Regular mock drills are crucial in preparing Japanese citizens for earthquake emergencies. These drills are conducted at various levels, from schools and workplaces to entire communities. 
  3. Research and Development: Japan has established the Institute for Earthquake Research, an institution dedicated to studying earthquakes and developing cutting-edge technologies for earthquake management

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