It has been regarded by the experts as the most powerful earthquake to have visited southeastern parts of Bangladesh including Chittagong in the last ten years. On Wednesday we have had the foretaste of what it would be like if seismic wave higher than 6 on the Richter scale should hit Bangladesh. Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Feni, Noakhali, Bandarban, Rangamati, Khagrachhari are within the vicinity of the vulnerable tectonic plate whose slight movement underneath could send severe tremors across the upper crust areas wreaking havoc on life and property.
Every time an earthquake of small or medium intensity makes news in Bangladesh, we wake up to the danger of a larger one and keep asking ourselves how prepared are we to face up to the calamity? Experts would reel off their assessments and media would cry hoarse over what is needed to be done. And like the fleeting seconds of an earthquake disappearing the discourse on the subject would likewise evaporate until another earthquake would make us garrulous again.
By sheer preparedness against earthquake Japan has made their land, houses and property safe from the onslaught of an earthquake as powerful as 8 on the Richter scale! The Japanese house builders strictly abide by both the building code as well as the land use code. Taiwan has learned the hard way that mere adherence to building code is not enough; land use code having to do with soil texture and other parameters will have to be complied with. As far as we are concerned, our builders are conspicuous by their defiance of building code in most cases and they are mostly indifferent to land use code.
Most of our buildings would need to be rendered earthquake-resistant, otherwise they would collapse like house of cards. In the earthquake-prone areas like Sylhet the houses require to be built with light material as they used to be in the past. Many prefabricated building material are now available with newer forms of construction technology to harness.
The civil defence setup and technology need to be upgraded to be prepared to rescue victims from the debris. An inventory of modern instruments would have to be built up.
Earthquakes are not predictable as cyclones and floods are. It is however good augury that we have four seismic observatories in the country now. Their capacity in terms of updating and analysing data will have to be enhanced. It is good to learn we are micro-zoning Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet in order to determine their vulnerabilities and the kind of construction work suitable for them.
Earthquake preparedness must receive the priority it merits.