Experts believe damage can be minimised by strict enforcement of construction laws
Pakistan is no stranger to earthquakes. The quake that shook the region on Monday was the 40th in the country’s history and one of the most powerful ones. The authorities have, however, failed to devise proper disaster prevention protocols.
More than 88,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives and over a million people have been injured in earthquakes since 1971, according to figures gathered from multiple sources.
Officials dealing with natural disasters, however, say the government does not have any collective data on losses caused in the aftermath of earthquakes.
Monday’s tremors were felt from Peshawar to Karachi with the seismographic network terming the quake’s magnitude the highest-ever recorded in Pakistan at 8.1 on the Richter scale. The damage has yet to be ascertained, but experts believe the destruction can be minimised by strict enforcement of laws already in place since the 2005 tragedy, which left around 80,000 people dead.
Recalling the history of earthquakes in Pakistan, Dr Qamar Zaman, former head of the Pakistan Meteorology Department, said there were no set trends of earthquakes in the Hindu Kush region.
“Unfortunately, we have failed to place any [precautionary] mechanism to reduce the scale of damage,” he said. “While Japan is pretty keen on educating people on earthquakes by changing their ways of living, here in Pakistan we rarely see any quake-resistant buildings, even in a modern city like Islamabad.”
Senator Humayun Mandokhail lamented the lack of any new natural disaster management policy. “We must create awareness among masses about surviving natural disasters,” he said. “We can minimise losses by forcing people to follow building control instructions.”
Some of the most powerful quakes have hit the region in recent years. On April 25, a 7.8 magnitude quake in Nepal killed almost 8,900 people and destroyed about half a million homes. A massive aftershock with a magnitude of 7.3 followed in May, killing dozens more.
On August 11, 2012, twin earthquakes with magnitudes 6.3 and 6.4 killed 306 people and left more than 3,000 injured near the Iranian city of Tabriz.
On May 12, 2008, a quake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale hit China’s southwest province of Sichuan, leaving more than 87,000 people dead or missing.
On October 8, 2005, more than 75,000 people were killed in the northern region of Pakistan after a 7.6 earthquake.
On December 26, 2003, a quake measuring 6.7 hit the Iranian city of Bam, killing at least 31,884 people and injuring another 18,000.
On January 26, 2001, a 7.7 earthquake hit the western Indian state of Gujarat, killing 25,000 people and injuring 166,000.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2015.