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Nepal earthquake is a reminder that Uttarakhand is a ticking quake bomb

The Wednesday tremor brings to mind the devastating 2015 Nepal earthquake and makes us ponder over the risks ahead.

(By Staff Reporter) Nepal was rocked by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in the wee hours of Wednesday, claiming six lives. Tremors were felt across north India, including Delhi, Gurugram, Ghaziabad and Lucknow.

The epicenter of the earthquake was in Nepal, about 90 km east-southeast of Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand, said the National Centre for Seismology (NCS).

At least two earthquakes of 4.9 magnitude and 3.5 magnitude late Tuesday evening were experienced in the region, the NCS data showed. On Sunday, a 4.5 magnitude earthquake hit Uttarakhand with its epicenter 17 km east-southeast of Uttarkashi.

The Wednesday quake brings to mind the devastating April 25, 2015 earthquake which struck near the city of Kathmandu in Nepal. The 7.8 magnitude quake, which took place just before afternoon, killed over 9,000 people and thousands were injured. It also triggered deadly avalanches around Mount Everest.

The massive earthquake left a trail of destruction, with 600,000 structures destroyed in Kathmandu and other nearby areas. The northern parts of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Tibet also felt shocks.

Countless Nepalese were rendered homeless as entire villages were flattened. Buildings at Unesco World Heritage sites in Kathmandu, including some at the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Patan Durbar Square, the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the Changu Narayan Temple, the Boudhanath stupa and the Swayambhunath stupa, were damaged.

Aftershocks were felt throughout Nepal. One of the aftershocks reached a magnitude of 6.7 a day after the quake. Initial damage due to the earthquake was estimated to be $5 billion to $10 billion.

The hill state has witnessed 700 minor earthquakes in the last decade, experts said. It is feared that the “big one” is round the corner. The earthquakes have been of less intensity (3 magnitude) in the last 10 years, according to a data collated by Doon-based Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG).

A 4.5 magnitude earthquake was felt in Tehri on Sunday. A massive earthquake is pending in the Central Seismic Gap (CSG), experts have noted.
After the Nepal quake in 2015, seismologists warned that Uttarakhand was "sitting on a quake timebomb".
Simon Klemperer, professor of geophysics and geological sciences at Stanford University in the US, reportedly said, “The earthquake that happened in Nepal is much smaller in magnitude than the earthquake we worry about that could happen here. We don’t know when the earthquake will happen, tomorrow or in 200 years. What we do know is that it will happen and millions of Indians will lose life.”
“We are expecting a major earthquake, something above six on the Richter scale, which can cause considerable damage. Uttarakhand will be hit by a major earthquake. It can happen today, tomorrow or in the near future but it will happen,'' Dr Anil P Joshi, founder of the Himayalan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation (HESCO), reportedly said sometime back.

Of the 13 districts in Uttarakhand, Chamoli and Bageshwar come under 100 per cent hyper sensitive seismic zones while five districts, including Dehradun, Champawat, Nainital, Uddhamsingh Nagar and Haridwar, come under 100 per cent sensitive zone, a report has said.

The central Himalayan region is one of the most seismically active in the world.
In 1905, Kangara was hit by a massive quake. In 1934, there was a Bihar-Nepal quake, which measured 8.2 and claimed 10,000 people. In 1991, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Uttarkashi killed over 800 people. In 2005, 80,000 people were killed in Kashmir after an earthquake of 7.6 magnitude hit the region.

There has been tectonic stress in the region for over 700 years that might be released now or after 200 years, studies indicated in 2016. This will have a huge impact on the central Himalayas.

These quakes are a manifestation of the convergence between the Indo-Australian and Asian tectonic plates that has built the Himalayan mountains in the last 50 million years, seismologists believe.