December 1, 2018
A massive earthquake is due to strike the Himalayan region, scientists have said in what is the latest warning of its kind.
A team of Indian scientists has published a new study saying that an earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or higher is due to strike the central Himalayas (which ranges from Uttarakhand to western Nepal) “anytime in the future”.
As a comparison, the 2015 Nepal earthquake that killed almost 9,000 people was of magnitude 8.1. The 2001 Gujarat earthquake that killed more than 13,000 people, on the other hand, measured 7.7 on the Richter scale.
The researchers behind the new study, which was led by seismologist CP Rajendran of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bengaluru, believe that an even more devastating earthquake hit the central Himalayas sometime in the 14th or the 15th century.
The researchers, news agency IANS reported, have based their study on geological data and maps released by the Geological Survey of India and Google Earth as well as imagery from space agency Isro’s Cartosat-1 satellite.
An earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or more is overdue in this part of the Himalayas, given the long-elapsed time
– New study’s lead researcher
The analysis has made the researchers certain that “a great earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or more occurred between 1315 and 1440” in the central Himalayas.
So devastating was the earthquake that a 600-km parcel of land opened up — that length, by the way, is more than the distance between Delhi and Lucknow.
Now, while the central Himalayas experiences frequent low-intensity earthquakes, there has not been any major temblor in the past few centuries.
This, the researchers said, indicates that there is an 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,” the lead researcher, CP Rajendran, told IANS.
In 2017, a group of scientists called on the Uttarakhand government to make the state’s infrastructure earthquake resistant Rajendran’s words echoed that of Piyush Rautela, the head of Uttarakhand’s Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre.
Just this year, Rautela said that the frequent mild earthquakes experienced in Uttarakhand were actually indicators of a massive quake that is due to hit the region.
“Frequent mild earthquakes in the hills of Uttarakhand should not be dismissed as common occurrences but treated as pointers to a major earthquake which is long overdue in the central seismic gap of the Himalayan front spanning Himachal Pradesh, Nepal and Uttarakhand,” Rautela told news agency PTI in April this year.
Rautela and CP Rajendran’s team aren’t alone in warning of an impending earthquake that could devastate Uttarakhand and possibly Himachal Pradesh and Nepal.
Scientists predict the Himalayan earthquake would be of magnitude 8.5 or higher. The 2015 Nepal earthquake was magnitude 8.1. The 2001 Gujarat quake was 7.7.
In 2017, a group of scientists held a two-day workshop in Dehradun where they discussed why they believe a massive earthquake is due to hit the region. The scientists also called on the Uttarakhand government to make the state’s infrastructure earthquake resistant.
Earlier in the 2016, a study conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Geological Sciences said that the even the 2015 Nepal earthquake had failed to release the pent up strain in the central Himalayas.
This stress has built up over hundreds of years. And, an earthquake that could kill or injure tens of thousands and cause never-seen-before damage is the only way this stress will get released.