Almost a dozen of 50 buildings in Dhaka were levelled by an earthquake on June 12, 1897. Originating in India's Assam state, the earthquake known as the Great Assam Earthquake had devastated an area of 250,000 sq km, including Dhaka.
The 8.1 magnitude earthquake had diverted the course of a river, hills collapsed to block traffic but it killed only 15 people in Dhaka where 90,000 people lived at that time.
If an earthquake like this was to occur in Dhaka now, over 83 percent of the total buildings will be damaged, revealed a seminar titled “Seminar on Earthquake.”
And the number of victims to die would be around 260,788, followed by an estimated 95,183 and 20,708 to be buried alive in Chittagong and Sylhet, estimates show.
Prof Mehedi Ahmed Ansary of the Department of Civil Engineering at Buet presented the keynote paper on “Earthquake related research and activities in Bangladesh during the last two decades.”
The seminar was organised in the wake of globally renowned earthquake experts' anticipation that a strong earthquake is likely in and around Bangladesh anytime.
“Soil is a very important factor to be considered before construction. Only ensuring strength and quality of construction materials is not enough,” said Ansary.
He cautioned against impeding water flow by filling wetlands with earth as it would, obviously, make an earthquake only calamitous. He put emphasis on having a regulatory commission for overseeing building constructions.
“We have become complacent about the topic of earthquake pretending that it is highly unlikely for this part of the land to have earthquakes. But we have a history of earthquakes and we are definitely vulnerable to earthquakes more than many other countries,” said Ansary. According to him, fire service offices, schools, and hospitals should be retrofitted without delay for ensuring a better preparation for the earthquake.
Prof AMM Toufiqul Anwar, head of the Department of Civil Engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, chaired the session. Rajuk Chairman Engineer GM Jainal Abedin Bhuiya was chief guest at the seminar, organised by BSRM at The Daily Star Centre. Speakers said Rajuk should oversee constructions of all residential buildings, and there had to be a licensed engineer or supervisor in charge of the construction.