June 20, 2021


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Small earthquakes indicate large earthquakes

Panic has gripped the city of Sylhet and surrounding areas in a series of mild earthquakes. The country’s seismologists are worried about other major cities in the country. Because, most experts think, this continuous earthquake is a hint of a big earthquake. From Shillong in Meghalaya, India to Bhutan via Sylhet, there is a huge amount of energy that has accumulated. Experts said that it came out through a mild earthquake and indicated a big earthquake.

In 2016, a full-fledged research report on the subject was published in the world-renowned scientific journal Nature Geoscience. The epicenter was reported below the ground, however; no tsunami alert was issued. The epicenter was reported below the ground, however; no tsunami alert was issued. A team led by Professor Humayun Akhtar of the Department of Geology, Dhaka University and a team of researchers from the University of California, USA were involved in the preparation of the research report.

After the publication of the study, the country’s geologists and civil engineering experts sat motionless. According to a survey conducted by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) at different times, there are a total of 13 lakh multi-storey buildings in Dhaka, 3 lakh in Chittagong and 1 lakh in Sylhet. Eighty-five percent of these buildings are six-story or more. These buildings and their occupants will be the most affected by a magnitude 6 earthquake.

In this regard, Professor Humayun Akhtar said in the first light, from Shillong in Meghalaya to Bhutan via Sylhet, there is a huge amount of energy in the underground fault. It comes out with a mild earthquake and indicates a big earthquake. Many earthquakes in this way are a sign of a big earthquake. He added, “So we should not waste another moment and start rehearsing what to do during the earthquake in the major cities of the country, including Sylhet, on an emergency basis.” Just as we made it compulsory to wear masks during the Corona period, we also need to bring earthquake preparedness and exercises into regular practice.

Earlier, from the Rana Plaza tragedy in Dhaka’s Savar in 2013, all the concerned agencies of the country, including the government, realized how difficult it is to carry out rescue work and save lives when a multi-storey building collapses. After the accident, a government-initiated survey was conducted by BUET to assess the earthquake-resistant condition of 5,000 garment factories in the country. It shows that 30 percent of the buildings are at risk due to various reasons including earthquakes. Later all the buildings were phased out and made sustainable.

The Department of Disaster Management took the initiative to form a volunteer force to work in the aftermath of the earthquake, such as a cyclone preparedness program. But it is stuck in the middle. Moderate earthquakes have been taken into account in finalizing the country’s building construction rules and building codes. But seismic experts in the country have expressed doubts about how many buildings in the country will survive an earthquake above 7 on the Richter scale.

In this regard, BUET professor and seismologist Mehedi Ahmed Ansari told Prothom Alo that all the 2 million multi-storey buildings in the country need to be made earthquake tolerant. Bangladesh has the technical skills and capabilities to do that. However, the government needs urgent initiative for this.

Meanwhile, the edge of a pond in Amberkhana Manipuripara in Sylhet city collapsed after last Sunday’s earthquake. A three-storey building at the pond is at risk. The locals claimed that the incident was due to several earthquakes and heavy rains. Five families in the building have been evacuated.

On April 30, 2019, the Sylhet City Authority identified 23 buildings in the city as risky. There is also a city supermarket (three storeys) owned by the corporation. Established in 1982, it has 345 shops. The traders are running the business with shop lease from the city authorities.

The Ministry of Relief and Disaster Management has called an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss what to do in this situation. In addition to government officials, the country’s top seismologists and engineers will be there.