Time to be shaken out of complacency


By Tinky Ningombam

On the 5th of Jan, I received a rather annoying Whatsapp broadcast message on another likely earthquake to hit by the evening. I am sure by now everyone is familiar with the message, it read “North India will face next earthquake at 8.06 p.m… The next richer (Richter) scale of earthquake will be 8.2. News from NASA. Plz forward message as much as u can.” While most of us knew that this was one more hoax, there were people who were spreading this news across Social Media and by calling up friends and family.

After a little online investigation, I found that this message has been doing circulations in the web as long as April 2015 and NASA officials were quoted in various news articles denying any such revelations or predictions by them.

As disturbing as it was, that people would try to prank people already in distress, there was no denying that it had managed to drive unnecessary fear into people. Ergo there is no greater remedy than to believe in our tried and tested advice of not blindly believing everything what one reads and sees.

It is indeed unfortunate that the New Year has brought in a grim reminder of our modest existence. A humbling experience for the powerful and the meek alike, in a markedly poetic character, a leveler of sorts to drive our ego back a couple of notches.

Whatever said and done, we are left to face with some unavoidable facts. That corruption and profiteering has rooted itself so much in our lives that it does not warrant judgement when the system fails to deliver every single time. It is a sad state of affairs that there is so less accountability in the face of such a national disaster to rehabilitate and restore affected lives and properties. It is unbelievable that in a small state like Manipur, it has taken more than 5 days to provide relief to all affected when substantial damage has only been concentrated in the villages close to the epicenter.

Unfortunately, we live in a place where it is deemed smarter that one is blind to politics, power equations and social factions. Even in terms of income divide and social standing, the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening progressively. And our systems are failing in every aspect. It is sad that there is no proper disaster management protocols, even as we have witnessed in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake, the vulnerability of the mountainous North East part of India reiterated time and again to be high-risk seismic zones as a publicly debated topic. And closer home, the recent Flood last year could have at least revived a ready disaster cell to be called in immediately for natural calamities.

In their defense, the state of Manipur has a functioning Department of Relief & Disaster Management. One did not have to look further off than our Government Website: http://manipur.gov.in/. Though there were no listed officials on the page, I would like to quote some findings of their Manipur State Disaster Management Plan Volume 1 which is found on this website, which has done an extensive analysis of the disasters that can occur in the State and the mitigation plan apparently that has been presented and documented in the past.

“2.3 Hazard Risk assessment and vulnerability mapping wing to its geo-climatic, geological and physical features, Manipur is vulnerable to all major natural hazards (Drought, Flood, Cyclone, Earthquake, Landslides, fires etc.). In addition, occurrence of biological disasters and other technological/human caused hazards such as transportation accidents, terror attacks etc. are most likely in the State.

The vulnerability of the State to major hazards is described below in brief:

2.3.1 Earthquake:

Manipur is situated in seismic zone V, which is the most earthquake prone zone in the country (Seismic Zones -India 2001). It keeps on experiencing minor tremors off and on. The seismologists, on the basis of past pattern have predicted that a major earthquake is almost overdue in the north east region of India (Tiwari 2002).

Earthquakes of low to moderate intensity are recorded here regularly. The state of Manipur, has weathered dozens of large earthquakes the biggest in recent times being the 1988 M7.2 earthquake. Most earthquakes in western Manipur are shallow. But some, especially those recorded in the eastern parts and along and across the Myanmar border have greater depths. Areas in central Manipur are especially vulnerable to damage during earthquakes as they lie in the Imphal Valley, the lowest point of which lies the Loktak Lake. Much of the valley floor provides for strong shaking from even far off quakes as its soft soil amplifies the wave motions. “ …

“ According to GSHAP data, the state of Manipur falls in a region of high to very high seismic hazard. As per the 2002 Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) map, this state also falls in Zone V.” …

“In Manipur, while all the districts are vulnerable to earthquake, the damage is most likely to occur in Imphal town, which has multi-storey buildings built without any consideration for incorporation of Earthquake Resistant construction.”

So to cut the chase, the fact is this, that we have are sitting on a ticking time-bomb living and working in hastily-built buildings that are not safe, in a terrain that is easily affected by floods and landslides, without awareness, money or proper help in the face of a calamity. Now in this predicament, what can a responsible government do? It is no rocket science this. But let’s face it, amidst gun-fights, kidnappings, bribery, unemployment, extortions and atrocities, a natural disaster is I guess the least of your worries.

It is wisely said that we can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails. The wit and industry of humans are the only things that can salvage them. For people who are concerned about the recent news on prediction about a major earthquake in the future, you can do a better bid in being prepared for unfortunate scenarios as such. Please keep public emergencies numbers such as Police, Hospitals, Fire departments ready. Also, it is good to keep an Emergency Backpack Kit ready with basic amenities for you to evacuate with. This can include cash, a medical box, water bottles, multi-function knife, torch light etc.

Also, whether or not in the future, you want to choose between running out in an open space or seeking refuge of your building structure, certain basic questions should be coursing through your head such as the ones listed below. These questions are common questions that are asked to validate if your house/structure is earthquake resistant; if all the answers are in the red, then it is time to consult an engineer to examine your house soon.

1. Did an engineer/architect/expert designed or built your house/home/office space?

2. How old is the structure and what shape is it?

3. How strong are the foundations and does it have expansions?

4. Was the structure damaged before?

5. How much iron or steel bars are used in the foundation/ wall spacing?

6. What is the soil condition under the house?

(If the misery of our poor be not created by the laws of nature but by our institutions, great is our sin – Charles Darwin)


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