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'Pak cities in constant danger of quakes'

Adil Razzaq Memon, international earthquake expert, says that major cities of Pakistan have no disaster management systems in place.

india Updated: Jan 01, 2007 13:40 IST

A Pakistani expert has claimed that he correctly predicted the Oct 9, 2005 earthquake four months before it hit the country but the authorities ignored his advice.

Adil  Razzaq Memon says the population in the quake danger zone was not warned and the government didn't place any rescue equipment or relief teams to meet the calamity. The government did not activate even the relief agencies, he told a meeting here.

Memon, an international expert on earthquakes, cautioned that major cities of Pakistan were in great danger of temblors in the future and there was no disaster management system in place in any part of the country.

While the 2005 quake was largely confined to rural areas, the absence of building codes and procedures in cities including Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar and Islamabad could result in mass deaths in a quake, he warned.

Memon said it was now possible to forecast an earthquake. The scientific methods being evolved could be refined easily to make quake forecasting as simple and accurate as weather forecasting.

According to him, Karachi is situated at the locking point of three continental plates - Indian, Arabian and Euro Asian, which were in perpetual motion and accumulating large stores of energy beneath the surface.

One faultline ran from Karachi to the north of Quetta and then it turned eastwards to Islamabad, Kashmir and the Himalayas. The other ran parallel to the Balochistan coast and from there to Iran and into Turkey.

He was of the view that major earthquakes along these fault lines had been taking place with increasing frequency. Earthquakes along these lines were now a routine and not an exception.

There was another locking point situated 1,200 km south of Karachi in the Indian Ocean. Here three plates, the Indian, the Arabian and the African, joined together.

Any unlocking of this joint would cause a tsunami, which can generate 10 metre-high waves, travelling at the speed of 500 km per hour and would reach Karachi in just two-and-a-half hours, he said. He recalled that a minor tsunami had hit the city in 1945 because of some movements in this particular joint.

He said the 4,000-km-long Himalayas was a joint where high energy was constantly accumulating beneath the surface as the Indian plate continued to push against the Euro Asian plate.

Memon stated that the northward movement of the Himalayas at the rate of 5 cm per year had been slowing down. This was a clear indication that the northward push would stop and reverse.

The expert said that the accumulated energy could seek outlets on all weak points situated at these faults.

When the motion of the Indian plate stops or reverses, the two locks near Karachi and in the Indian Ocean would start unzipping, which would cause major earthquakes around these locks.

He strongly advocated the setting up of well-equipped centres to monitor all the perimeters that indicated an earthquake and setting up a system to provide immediate relief when such disasters actually hit.

He warned that extensive coal mining, oil and gas exploration and nuclear blasts created vacuums and upset the energy balance under the earth's surface.