There is a 70 per cent chance of a 7-8 magnitude earthquake occurring in Assam on Friday, a geologist from the University of Madras has predicted on the basis of planetary positions.
A statement issued by N Venkatanathan of the department of applied geology says the alignment of Sun, Moon and Mercury that day is exactly similar to the one that existed on August 15, 1950 when a 8.5 magnitude quake killed thousands in Assam.
Venkatanathan, who has been making predictions using "Geo-Astro Physical" calculations that he developed as part of his PhD thesis, said: "On both days, the direction of planetary force acting is also similar, which is a worrying factor."
A board member of the Britain-based International Society for Earthquakes Prediction, Venkatanathan is, however, careful to emphasize that his alert is not an official warning but flows out of his theory which he has successfully tested for several years.
Based on the analysis, he said the earthquake could occur around 8.21 a.m. with its epicenter about 15 km southwest of Dibrugarh.
Vineet Gahalaut, a seismologist at the National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad, is skeptical about predictions based on planetary alignments.
"We do not understand the scientific basis and method which he employs for his prediction," Gahalaut told IANS.
Venkatanathan is not discouraged by the views of mainstream seismologists. "I have enough reasons to correlate the role of planetary configurations in the triggering mechanism of the earthquakes," he said.
His studies have been published in the international "Geophysical Bulletin Sismológico, Vulcanológico and Geológico," in 2004 and in the Journal of Indian Geophysical Union last year.
"My calculations show that there was a sudden change in planetary forces when the massive earthquake shook Assam Aug 15, 1950," Venkatanathan said.
"Exactly similar 'force change' will happen Sep 8 when the Sun and Mercury will be aligned on one side of the Earth and Moon at the opposite side along the same line."
He said that though similar planetary alignments had taken place several times between 1950 and now, the "force changes were not conducive for triggering an earthquake every time".
For instance, planetary alignment similar to that of the 1950 earthquake took place March 12 this year but without abrupt change in force, he said.
"It is only Friday the force change will be similar to that during the planetary alignment of 1950.
"This, plus the fact that the region has experienced several small shocks in the last three weeks, and recent observation by seismologist Arun Bapat of Pune of abrupt drop in atmospheric temperature in that region alerted me give this prediction for Assam," Venkatanathan said.
According to his theory, when two or more planets fall in line with the Earth, the net gravity forces act as "trigger" for the release of the accumulated stress at faults and plate boundaries in an earthquake prone region.
Citing one example, he said the two strong earthquakes in Java May 26 this year and May 25, 2001 took place at almost the same place when Sun, Moon and Mercury were aligned with the Earth.
Similarly, the two earthquakes near Izmit in Turkey Aug 17, 1999 and Nov 12, 1999 also occurred when Mars and Saturn had lined up with Earth, he said.
"Like this I can give numerous examples from the analysis of 4,000 earthquakes so far I have done," Venkatanathan said.
According to scientists, northeast is a region where a major earthquake is due because of strain building up since the 8.5 magnitude quake in 1950. But they agree that it is difficult to predict the timing of this event.