AN earthquake of magnitude 6.1 in Afghanistan on Wednesday killed around 1000 people. The European seismological agency, EMSC, said the earthquake’s tremors were felt over 500 kilometres by 119 million people across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Rescue efforts have suffered due to the absence of international aid agencies most of whom left Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of the country last year and the chaotic withdrawal of the US forces. The Taliban has little resources to tackle the disaster at hand. So, the world including the neighbors need to step up to help out the victims of the natural calamity in the war-scarred country.
That said, the Afghanistan quake should be a warning to us here in Kashmir. The Valley has witnessed two moderate quakes over the last weeks. While these can be dismissed as routine occurrences in any other place, not so in Kashmir, which falls in earthquake zone 5. In a written reply in 2017, the then Minister for Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction, Syed Basharat Ahmed Bukhari told the then J&K Assembly that almost all districts of Kashmir valley and erstwhile Doda district fall in Seismic Zone-V and the rest of the districts fall in Seismic Zone-IV. So, there is always an apprehension of threat to life and property.
In 2005 a big temblor that was 7.6 on Richter scale led to the loss of around 80,000 lives. Pakistan Administered Kashmir was worst affected with a predominant number of the people killed hailing from there. On this side of the state, the quake caused devastation along the villages bordering Line of Control, particularly Uri and parts of Kupwara district leaving around 1300 people dead. If anything, the recent quakes should warn us as to a possible repetition of this natural disaster in the region.
Already, a study by a prominent US seismologist Roger Bilham has warned that Kashmir Valley is likely to be hit by an earthquake of largest ever magnitude. But the study has not specified any particular time-frame. In what can be an apocalyptic scenario, Bilham said the quake could trigger landslides that would dam the river Jhelum, He also urged India and Pakistan to develop a cooperative plan to deal with the aftermath of a mega-quake in the union territory. But ever since the 2005 earthquake which initially alerted the government and the people to build stronger, reasonably quake resistant structures, the complacency seems to have again set in. The recent quakes have thus come as an important reminder to us to become more mindful of our vulnerability to the natural disasters – flood being the another – and take pro-active measures to lessen the damage should, God forbid, we experience another disaster. It is incumbent on the government not only to get its act together but also create public awareness to help people to better prepare for a possible future calamity.
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