Ignored Warnings

Reports compiled by the Earthquake Affected Relief and Rehabilitation Services, Ahmedabad indicate that several warning signals that were reported by the media four months ago were ignored

The people of Gujarat, especially Kutch and Saurashtra, have been victim to a relent
 less cycle of natural disasters: two cyclones, in 1998 and 1999, coupled with two successive years of drought. The present earthquake was of unprecedented intensity and the tragedy has raised legitimate questions about the quality and efficacy of government response related to disaster management.  A significant aspect of disaster management relates to responses to warnings of imminent disasters. 

Reports compiled by the Earthquake Affected Relief and Rehabilitation Services (EARRS), Ahmedabad indicate that several such signals that even appeared in the media four months ago, were ignored

Reports from newspapers of Sept. 2000:

Major quake may follow Bhavnagar tremor: Expert 
(PTI) 18 Sept. 2000, The Times of India

MUMBAI: The large number of tremors being felt in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat “may be indications of a possible major earthquake”, according to an eminent geologist. The 11 tremors in five hours on September 12 could be foreshocks which normally precede a major earthquake just as it happened in Killari in Maharashtra on September 30, 1993, said Dr V Subramanyan while delivering a lecture on “Seismic scenario around Mumbai” at the Indian Institute of Geo–magnetism here during the weekend. 

Bhavnagar is geologically identical to Mumbai and both fall under earthquake zone III where quakes of magnitude up to 6.5 were possible, he said. 
The district lies along the Gulf of Khambat which is near Narmada faults, well near Satranj river basin. Subramanyan, currently project advisor of department of earth sciences in IIT Mumbai, said normally the faults, lying quiet for some time, get reactivated suddenly and act as the route for the release of stored pressures. 

Appreciating the Gujarat government’s effort at assessing the strength of the existing buildings and planning to adopt appropriate building technology, he said such studies should be done systematically for posterity since “we have to live with the earthquakes”. Scientific studies have helped to demarcate possible seismic zones through integrated geological and geophysical investigations, he said, adding, “the only thing which can be attempted in seismic zones is to go in for appropriate construction using the right designs for different types of buildings, warehouses, power reactors and dams”. Talking about prediction and prevention of earthquakes, Subramanyan said the scientific community was still not in a position to predict earthquakes. 

“It is because there are many factors we do not know, like the depths where the pressures build up, for how long they accumulate before getting relieved through earthquakes and where the pressure is built”. 

Earthquakes are brought about by the sudden release of pressures that have been accumulating for a long time inside the earth just like a pressure cooker, he said. Rocks are strong to withstand such pressures for quite some time, but when the accumulating stress exceeds ultimate bearing capacity, then they break by developing “fault” planes — which are actually cracks through which the accumulated pressure is released suddenly generating an earthquake which normally does not last longer than 15 seconds. 

Killer quake feared in Gujarat district 
Thursday 14 September 2000, The Times of India
GANDHINAGAR: Three more mild tremors kept people awake all night in Bhavnagar district as the government prepared on Wednesday to meet any emergency situation in the coastal region sitting on a seismically active faultline. More than 30 mild tremors have been felt in Saurashtra in recent days, raising fears of a major geological activity that could cause death and destruction. 

Experts warned that a ‘’killer earthquake’’ could strike the region anytime as the Bhavnagar–Kodinar faultline seems to have ‘re–activated’. The latest tremors were experienced at around 11.15 pm on Tuesday, and 2.24 am and 6 am on Wednesday. The region was shaken nearly a dozen times on Tuesday.

More than 30 mild tremors have been felt in Saurashtra in recent days, raising fears of a major geological activity that could cause death and destruction.Experts warned that a ‘’killer earthquake’’ could strike the region anytime as the Bhavnagar–Kodinar faultline seems to have ‘re–activated’.
— The Times of India, September 14 , 2000

Three hundred families had been shifted to safer places. Chief minister Keshubhai Patel, in Bhavnagar campaigning for the September 17 civic elections, urged the Centre to rush a team of meteorologists and seismologists to study the phenomenon. Patel also held high–level review meetings of officials here on Wednesday. The state government has sanctioned Rs 50 lakh as contingency relief fund and despatched medical and engineering teams to Bhavnagar. (UNI)
Quiet Bhavnagar tremor raises quite a storm: Geologists to study connection with earth-quakes in Turkey, Taiwan
Discussion forum on Local Economy & Politics, 23rd September, 2000 
A team of geologists from Dehradun, Pune and Vadodara will look into whether the tremors felt in Bhavnagar on Tuesday were anyway related to the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Taiwan. 

On the other hand, principal advisor to the chief minister, PK Lehari, said on Wednesday in Gandhinagar that there was no link between the earthquake that occurred in Taiwan and tremors felt in the Bhavnagar district of the state. Mr Lehari said that Bharuch and not Bhavnagar fall in the earthquake zone. 

Bhavnagar experienced slight tremors on Tuesday afternoon at 12.55 pm in an area of 80 sq km reaching up to Bhal Bhatta area in Alang. The tremors in Bhavnagar on Tuesday followed a severe earthquake in Taiwan where more than a thousand people died. Coincidentally, the earthquake in Turkey about one–and–a–half months back was also followed by tremors in the Bhavnagar city. 

Experts from Dehradun, Pune and Vadodra will also locate the epicentre of eruption in case the city faces a serious threat of earthquake. According to experts in the seismographic research department of the state, an earthquake is generally followed by slight tremors. No official records were taken one–and–a–half months back when the city experienced similar tremors following the Turkey earthquake. 

Gujarat Engineering Research Institute at Vadodara has also been contacted in this connection. According to the Maritime Board of Alang, the intensity of the tremors was greater at the ocean surface and near seashore areas. Similarly, in Bhavnagar, intensity of the tremors was less in rural areas, as a result of which residents have started shifting to villages. 

However, the Bhavnagar district collector, Mr Rajkumar, who was in Gandhinagar on Tuesday, said normal life was unaffected and also no loss of property was reported. 

Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2001 Year 8  No. 66, Cover Story 2



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