But fear not. At 8.7 on the Richter scale it is not really as if the ‘mother of all quakes’ will hit the Northeast region seven months from now on.
It will just be a detailed post earthquake scenario that will be simulated by the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) along with experts from scientific and earth sciences organizations and the North-Eastern Council (NEC).
Interestingly, about 8.4 lakh people are predicted to die across the eight states if the 1897 Shillong earthquake is replicated (at mid-night).
“The initial study is for four states but in the second phase, all eight states including Sikkim will be covered,” said Pawan Singh Ghatowar, Union minister, Development of North Eastern Region (DoNer).
The project will undertake a scientific assessment on the vulnerability of the region to the impact of such an earthquake to augment capacity building and multi-state coordinated preparedness for disaster management.
"The planning for the scenario has been scheduled with multi-state mega mock exercises in two groups of four states each, a detailed review of the existing disaster management plans, besides training of stakeholders,” the minister said adding that the effort was planned much before the catastrophe in Uttarakhand a month back.
The simulated experiment acquires all the more significance in the light of a controversial MoU-signing spree to set up about 168 hydropower dams on rivers across Arunachal Pradesh.
The mega dam network is being reportedly built being built in brazen disregard for environmental, seismic, socio-economic and cultural issues because of which there have been huge protests by indigenous and tribal populations upstream in Arunachal Pradesh and downstream in Assam.
The entire northeast region falls under Zone 5 or the most vulnerable zone in seismic terms. In September 2011, Sikkim underwent heavy damage after an earthquake hit the state.
The northeast has seen some of the biggest quakes in history like the Shillong-epicentred quake in 1897 that measured 8.2 on the Richter scale and the massive 8.7 Assam quake in 1950 which caused even the mighty Brahmaputra river to change its course.
In 53 years between 1897 and 1950, four major earthquakes (Shillong, 1897; Kangra, 1905; Bihar-Nepal, 1934 and Assam, 1950) exceeding 8 magnitude on the Richter Scale have occurred in the Himalayan region causing huge devastation. With no such earthquake since 1950, studies indicate that enough strains have accumulated to generate magnitude 8 or larger earthquakes in this region.
A first order state-wise assessment on the possible scenario in case the 1897 Shillong earthquake is replicated (at mid-night), has already been worked out. The following table depicts the scenario:
1. Assam 40,00,000 6,00,000
2. Manipur 2,10,000 38,000
3. Meghalaya 4,80,000 68,000
4. Nagaland 1,80,000 30,000
5. Sikkim 84,000 12,000
6. Tripura 4,32,000 66,000
7. Arunachal Pradesh 76,000 12,000
8. Mizoram 1,10,000 17,000
Total: 55,72,000 8,43,000 (END)