26 years on, the Latur quake has taught us many lessons

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on October 01, 2019 Published on October 01, 2019

Late former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao visited the earthquake affected areas on October 4, 1993   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Exactly 26 years ago, more than 10,000 people did not and would never again wake up from their sleep in the Latur region of Maharastra, as a massive 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook the ground under them. The villagers were fast asleep after celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi.

The September 30, 1993, Killari-Latur earthquake that struck around 3.45 am, is now considered a ‘Watershed’ in Indian seismological studies. It has permanently led to the upgradation of seismological observatories from analog (charts) to digital. Today, the National Centre for Seismology (NCS), under the India Meteorological Department (IMD), has a string of 115 digital observatories.

Change in outlook

In short, the 10,000 lives lost in one of the worst earthquakes of the 20th century in India permanently changed the outlook of earth scientists, administrators and policy makers towards saving lives, says D Srinagesh, Chief Seismologist at the CSIR-NGRI (National Geophysical Research Institute), Hyderabad.

The earthquake shook the establishment into immediate action and the overall upgradation initiative launched to equip all observatories with digital instrumentation.

Since, it is not easy to predict earthquakes, the emphasis was on strengthening the monitoring, disaster mitigation and preparedness areas.

The NGRI itself focussed on the peninsular shield (South India) and the Deccan Traps regions, under which the Latur area falls. A Deep Borehole experiment to study the fault zones and the possible cause of the earthquake, in a region believed to be stable seismologically, was also carried out, he told BusinessLine.

Consequent to the Jabalpur earthquake of 1997, the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences also took up Microzonation studies to map out the vulnerability of cities to earthquakes. At least eight major cities have been fully covered. Similarly an earthquake hazard map of India has been prepared.

Handling the aftermath

On the disaster-mitigation front, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has also armed itself with trained personnel to handle earthquake fallouts. It has done mock drills involving 17 cities and 18 locations for a scenario following a large earthquake of magnitude 8 plus.

The probability of such a large earthquake occurring in the Himalayan region and north east is very high according to seismologists.

The Killari episode, described by some seismologists as a ‘blind thrust’ earthquake in the fault zone, has forever woken up earth scientists and policymakers to focus on saving lives.

But, for the more than 10,000 dead, their families and the people in the ring of 50 villages in the Osmanabad district of Maharastra, clearly, the scars of the ‘Black September 30 night’ are hard to erase.

Published on October 01, 2019
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