It has been almost a month since the devastating earthquake struck Nepal. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team was first to reach the Himalayan nation, within five hours of the disaster. The tremors felt in the Capital left Delhiites worried and anxious with a question in their minds, ‘what if a quake like this hits the city?’.
“Because Delhi is surrounded by buildings, an earthquake can cause a lot of damage,” said NDRF chief OP Singh, IPS (1983), who was in Nepal at the time of the disaster.
“There’s a saying that earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do. Unfortunately, Delhi is filled with buildings. The Capital is extremely vulnerable as it falls under the seismic zone IV which means if an earthquake of such high magnitude were to hit the city, Delhites will face a lot of problems. Thus the city should prepare itself not only by conducting disaster management drills, but should also strictly observe the building code,” said Singh.
Singh, who had also supervised rescue operations during the Kashmir floods, said: “Earthquakes cannot be predicted but by making buildings resistant, we can always minimise the damage. The NDRF also works towards community empowerment and 40 lakh residents across the country have been trained on how to respond under such circumstances. Many such training sessions were held in Delhi too. Technology also plays a key role during a natural disaster,” he said.
Twenty-three teams of the NDRF, 16 in Nepal, five in Bihar and one in Uttar Pradesh were deployed for rescue operations. Each team comprising 45 members was armed with equipment such as life detectors and victim localisation cameras.
“Our experience in Nepal has been very educative. Apart from providing humanitarian assistance, we also coordinated the rescue operations. During the first 12 hours, we saved lives from rubble and debris in far off areas. It was also educative in terms of working with other international rescue teams in such a large operation in a foreign country. We got to know their methods of operation, new equipment, something which can be used if such a disaster hits Delhi or any other part of the country,” Singh said.
According to Singh, equipment plays a crucial role and teams with modern equipment can save more lives. “We were the first to reach Nepal. Our first team left the battalion within 20 minutes. The NDRF is prepared to face eventualities like earthquakes, urban floods, landslides and CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) emergencies in any part of the country. These days, rescue operations are more technology driven and we keep on exploring,” Singh said.