J&K: 300 moved as 3 Doda houses collapse after cracks emerge

Feb 04, 2023 04:53 AM IST

The Doda area falls under seismic zone 4, which indicates a high likelihood of destruction from earthquakes.

At least 22 houses developed cracks , out of which three collapsed, in Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda district this week, prompting the evacuation of at least 300 people from their homes, officials said on Friday, adding that the more people could be at risk.

The cracked floor of a house in Doda district. (ANI)
The cracked floor of a house in Doda district. (ANI)

Local administration said the cracks were caused because parts of the land had appeared to have sunk, triggering a crisis that resembles the situation in another Himalayan town, Joshimath, where close to 900 people have had to be relocated after over 180 homes developed cracks.

“There was panic among the people after more houses developed massive cracks around 12.30 am the intervening night of Thursday and Friday when a landslide below the village resulted in the collapse of some houses,” said a resident, Zubair Ahmed (25).

Also read | Joshimath crisis: A month on, evacuees say forced to live like refugees

Since then, 10 to 11 houses had developed cracks at Nai Basti in Thathri area, adjoining the Jammu-Doda national highway.

Sub divisional magistrate of Thathri, Athar Amin Zargar said: “On Wednesday, some people came to us and apprised us about the issue. We immediately went to the area and saw that six houses had developed massive cracks. Later, Doda district collector, senior superintendent of police (SSP), and superintending engineer of the public works department visited the area. On Thursday, the cracks spread to 10 to 11 more houses. The entire area is sinking.”

“A team of geologists that visited the area told us that the entire area is sinking due to varied factors. New habitations have come up over the years and water has kept seeping into the ground. As of now, 22 structures were affected and three houses have collapsed in Nai Basti village,” Zargar added.

“Around 300 people have been affected by the damage to their houses. While majority of them have returned to their native villages, eight families comprising around 50 members have been shifted to a relief camp,” he added.

The development brings back the spotlight on settlements and development projects in Himalayan towns. Joshimath has been held up as an example of how these can go wrong, with a combination of geological impact due to construction of homes and business buildings, and larger projects like highways and dams, which together can pose a grave risk to the fragile topology of the mountains.

The Doda area falls under seismic zone 4, which indicates a high likelihood of destruction from earthquakes.

Zargar said that the administration has evacuated people to a camp established for them.

“Meanwhile, a team of the Geological Survey of India is reaching the area. Lieutenant Governor and DC Doda are monitoring the situation. As a preventive measure, our priority is to save the people. The highway was also closed for a while for traffic and the vehicles were allowed cautiously,” he added.

The SDM reiterated the land subsidence was at a large scale in the area. “We are waiting for the GSI experts. We hope the cracks do not increase and land subsidence stops,” he added.

In Joshimath, cracks spread to new buildings for much of the month of January after having begun abruptly early in the month.

The Doda official said the exact cause of subsidence would be known only after a thorough survey by experts. “Over the years new structures came up in the area, which is an old sinking zone of 1980s,” he said.

Till now, the SDM added, the administration has evacuated 300 people and may have to shift 50-60 more if the land subsidence does not stop.

Local geologists have earmarked an area that they feel is at risk.

Reacting to the development, professor GM Bhat, a geologist at University of Jammu said: “The village is situated on a slope... I have been given to understand that a road construction work was taken up beneath the village. If so, the sliding or sinking was bound to happen. The administration should check if the seepage (from the houses) is going into the ground and check it immediately”.

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    A principal correspondent, Ravi Krishnan Khajuria is the bureau chief at Jammu. He covers politics, defence, crime, health and civic issues for Jammu city.

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