Wary countdown to a big earthquake

Shihab Sarkar | Published: October 13, 2018 21:32:57 | Updated: October 27, 2018 21:12:35

The fast rate at which the impacts of climate change are occurring around the globe only points to the alarming turn of the phenomenon. It also underlines the unpredictability of the behaviour of the present global climate. Against this fact comes the news of a bleak forecast. Made by the United Nations Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change, the prediction said on October 11 that by 2030, the earth's temperature would undergo an increase by at least half a degree.  Climate scientists have termed this fast temperature rise a portent of catastrophic changes.

Newer regions and climate zones are experiencing changes in nature which were at the farthest recess of imagination. A few natural hazards and disasters now visit mankind apparently in conformity with the new pattern of climate behaviour. Tsunamis, earthquakes, and hurricanes and cyclones in a row seem to back this observation.

Cyclones have been battering Bangladesh since ancient times. There were no records of tsunamis hitting the country. But Bangladesh was brushed by one triggered by super-quakes at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. This tsunami directly hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra in 2004. On its northward advance, it ravaged a number of countries along the coast of the Indian Ocean.  But a few mid-scale and smaller earthquake-triggered giant sea-waves or undersea mega-thrust earthquakes later wrought havoc with the greater southern Asian region. Their onslaughts in a short span of time, in fact, point to the unpredictability of these calamities. Ability to read the early signs of tsunami ends in failure in the Indian Ocean region due to the complicated process involved in the task. In comparison, earthquakes are purely inscrutable. Technical devices capable of forecasting earthquakes have yet to be invented. Few countries in South and Southeast Asia have been spared its strike, and Bangladesh belongs to these exceptions.

But it is feared a disastrous temblor stares Bangladesh in the face. Over a dozen of minor earthquakes have jolted the country in the last three decades. These tremors are interpreted by seismologists as forewarnings of a major disaster. Unpredictability has added to the dread of the strike of a large-scale earthquake. Although majority of the educated people in the country are found in a resigned mood vis-à-vis the imminence of an earthquake, those adequately aware of the disaster are serious. They are unwavering in their position on the alluvial and swampy land's vulnerability to earthquakes. As they observe, this geological development stems from the recent severity of the global and regional climate changes and the impacts. An alarming aspect of these phenomena is set to emerge in the form of unpredictability on the calamity's exact time. The danger awaiting Bangladesh lurks in it. That the country is headed for a catastrophic earthquake is no longer debated. What leads to discords is the extent of casualty and damage caused by it.

The trail of devastation left by the recent tsunami and earthquake in the town of Palu in Indonesia's Sulawesi Island can be a pointer to the case of Dhaka, in case it is hit by a quake over 7 on the Richter scale. Palu is known for its tranquility and sparse population. Compared to it, Dhaka with its large population and its jungle of concrete structures emerges as a giant deathtrap. The post-earthquake Dhaka's danger lies in its dreaded losing battle in the task of rescue of the victims. Due to its unplanned growth and population density, a tolerably effective rescue operation seems elusive. Lots of colloquiums have focused on the subject. It's time the authorities swung into all-out disaster preparedness for the capital.



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