If expert opinion is any guide, the country is heading for a major earthquake devastation anytime. With several fault lines in and around the Bangladesh and 34 minor tremors shaking its eastern parts including the capital city in the past two months, a major earthquake is around the corner, they forewarn. It is more like lightning that strikes during inclement weather but with the difference that at least people have the option of not getting out when thunderstorms rain down frequently and more importantly, the latter does not kill many people or animals at a time.
Earthquakes pose the greatest threat to crowded cities developed in an unplanned manner and with buildings constructed in violation of the building codes. Along with Dhaka City, Chattogram, Sylhet, Mymensingh, Cumilla and a few other small towns are located either in the subduction zone or in close proximity of those lying outside of the border. The 300-km long and 50-km wide Kopili fault zone extending from the Western part of Manipur up to the tri-junction of Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam is neither too far nor too close to the major cities in the eastern part of Bangladesh. The Dauki seismic zone is closer and the tectonic plates collide between Chattogram and Sylhet. So, it poses a greater threat. Then there is the Madhupur fault line close to the capital. What is particularly concerning is that the epicentre, about 24 km south of Goalpara, Assam, of the Monday’s quake of 5.2 magnitude was close to that of the last major quake of 8.7 magnitude in 1897.
In a situation like this, what options are open to inhabitants of this capital city and other large cities and towns feared to be devastated in case of a major quake? The options are not many but the few there are should be known to people. The need was to identify the vulnerable buildings and demolish or retrofit those but it is still imparting training to engineers. The focus ought to be on saving as many lives as possible. A comprehensive campaign for making people aware of the do’s and don’ts in time of a quake should be launched along with drills in city wards immediately.