Assam on alert after quake prediction

Updated on Sep 07, 2006 02:44 PM IST

A media report on Wednesday quoted a geologist as saying that there was 70% chance of a quake in Assam on Friday.

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None | BySyed Zarir Hussain (IANS), Guwahati

The Assam government on Thursday sounded a maximum alert following predictions by a geologist from the University of Madras that a high magnitude earthquake was likely to hit the region on Friday.

"We have already sounded a high alert asking all departments to be ready to meet any eventualities following the earthquake prediction although we appeal to the people not to panic," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said over the phone from New Delhi.

"We know there is no definite scientific evidence yet to predict an earthquake although we cannot simply ignore such warnings."

The Bangalore datelined story released by IANS Wednesday quoted a statement issued by N. Venkatanathan of the Department of Applied Geology saying there was 70 percent chance of a 7-8 magnitude earthquake hitting Assam at 8.21 a.m. on Friday. The epicentre would be about 15 km southwest of Dibrugarh, 500 km east of Assam's main city of Guwahati.

Though seismologists debunked his theory, Venkatanathan said his alert was not an official warning but flowed out of his theory based on geo-astrophysical calculations that he has successfully tested for several years.

"We have sought clarification from the government of India to ascertain the validity of such a prediction although at the moment we are not taking any chance," said Assam Chief Secretary S.K. Kabilan.

"Our disaster management teams of civil defence, health workers, doctors, police and paramilitary soldiers, fire services and engineers are on full alert."

The news, carried prominently by all English and language dailies Thursday, sent people into a panic.

"There is bound to be panic when you read such reports. You cannot just remain silent after such a pinpointed prediction and so we are preparing for the worst," said Hitesh Baruah, a doctor in Guwahati city.

"I am not going to send my daughter to school Friday," added Pranjal Kumar Bhoralee, a real estate promoter in Guwahati.

People across the state were making bulk purchases of essential goods and medicines.

"Since early morning my shop has been crowded with people who are buying goods in large quantities following the earthquake prediction," Mithilesh Singh, a grocer, said.

People could also be seen queuing up outside bank ATMs to withdraw cash to prepare for the disaster.

"You never know the cash dispensing machines could go dry or not work if something happens," said Arindam Nath, a government official in Guwahati.

Elsewhere, people were preparing to hold special prayers in the day to ward off any disaster.

"We are meeting at the namghar (Hindu temple) in the afternoon to hold a special prayer," Gunaram Sharma, a priest, said.

Similar prayers were being planned in mosques and churches in the state.

People are in a quandary about what to do on Friday.

"We are leaving tonight for Guwahati from Dibrugarh as this is the place where the epicentre is being predicted. At least the devastation would be less in Guwahati," said Rontu Das, a businessman in Dibrugarh.

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