Bengaluru, Nov 30:

Growing warnings by scientists of an impending high-magnitude earthquake in the Himalayas have got further credence from yet another study by Indian researchers.

The new study, led by seismologist CP Rajendran of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bengaluru, says the “enormous stacking up of strain in the region portends at least one earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or more in one of the overlapping segments of the central Himalayas anytime in the future”.

Director of the Disaster Management Department, Jammu and Kashmir, Aamir Ali, told Ziraat Times Friday evening that though we [people of J&K] live in an area which falls under seismic zone V, which means we are prone to earthquakes, however, one cannot say with certainty where and when an earthquake will occur.

​Prof Shakeel Romshoo, Head Department of Earth Sciences, University of Kashmir, who has extensive research work on the subject to his credit, told Ziraat Times that while ​’it is doubtless that the state of Jammu and Kashmir is vulnerable to earthquakes but it is difficult to predict the timing, place and magnitude of an earthquake’.

However, he contends that the long seismic gap in the region is a concern as ‘it is believed that an enormous amount of strain has been built up in the rocks which when released during an earthquake might prove disastrous.’

According to the CP Rajendran study, published in “Geological Journal”, the researchers critically evaluated existing databases along with the data from two newly explored locales — Mohana Khola in far western Nepal and Chorgalia, which falls within the Indian border, to determine the timing of the last faulting event on the frontal thrust of the central Himalayas.

The researchers followed the local geology and structural map published by the Geological Survey of India, besides using Google Earth and imagery from Indian space agency ISRO’s Cartosat-1 satellite.

The analysis, the researchers say, “compels us to conclude that a great earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or more that occurred between 1315 and 1440 had unzipped a stretch of about 600 km (the length of central seismic gap from Bhatpur to beyond Mohana Khola) in the central Himalayas with an average slip (or displacement) of 15 metres”.

The present study underlines the fact after this massive earthquake, the frontal thrust in the central Himalayas (covering parts of India and eastern Nepal) has remained seismically quiet for 600 to 700 years, implying enormous build-up of strain in the region.

“An earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or more is overdue in this part of the Himalayas, given the long-elapsed time.

“Considering this potentially high seismic risk, this will be particularly catastrophic for a region marked by an ever-growing population and unhindered expansion of the built-up environment, to be contrasted with poor preparedness to meet this contingency,” Mr Rajendran told this correspondent.

Roger Bilham, a US geophysicist at the University of Colorado whose years of work laid the basis for the current knowledge about earthquakes in the Himalayan region, fully supports the Indian researchers’ findings.

“They are undeniably correct in concluding that should an earthquake occur now, its magnitude could equal 8.5,” Mr Bilham said.

​Faiz Bakshi, ​Convenor of Environmental Policy Group, believes that Roger Belham’s words on the matter cannot be taken lightly.

​”​Roger Belham made a visit to Kashmir as well.​ ​​His previous ​predictions about ​the ​earthquake ​in Nepal ​and the​ Uttarakhand have proved ​​right.​ Roger’s main worry in Kashmir is about the floods caused by such a massive earthquake due to blockade of rivers”, Mr Bakshi told Ziraat Times.

In J&K’s context, lack of earthquake preparedness and high vulnerability of the existing human habitations, mainly the nature of building constructions, remain a matter of concern.

“The important thing to understand is that earthquake is a natural hazard, however, it is the unsafe buildings that make earthquake a disaster and have potential to injure or cause deaths. The building bye laws have been amended and its now mandatory to construct earthquake resistant structures”, Mr Aamir Mir said, adding “we should ensure that all new constructions are made earthquake resistant and all existing structures should be retrofitted.”

Prof Shakeel Romshoo supports this view. “Besides creating an awareness about the earthquake preparedness among the masses, I think there is an urgent need to audit on priority the public and private infrastructure for earthquake disaster risk vulnerability and take the necessary measures for reducing the risk of people and infrastructure to earthquakes”, he told Ziraat Times.

With IANS inputs

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