Unlike Latur in 1993, which took quake experts by surprise by occurring in an area seen as seismically serene, this tremblor was consistent with received knowledge and, thus, not completely unexpected. It occurred in a region known for its seismic vulnerability—clocking major earthquakes of intensity going over 7 on the Richter at least once in 50 years, interspersed with frequent minor ones.
Indeed, the earliest recorded quake in Gujarat—in 1819, at 8 on the Richter—happened here. It’s said to have flattened entire villages, including a monument called the Sindree Fort, and crushed 3,500 people. But most famously, it ripped the earth apart and created a 140-km-long scarp—an elevation of bunched-up soil—in the Little Rann of Kutch. Awestruck mortals dubbed it Allah Bund.
Not that scientists can explain things much better. Experts at the Indian Meteorology Department (imd) believe the Bhuj quake is a reawakening of the Allah Bund fault. "Maybe so," says H.K. Gupta, chief of Hyderabad’s National Geophysical Research Institute (ngri), "but the rupture of any one of many faults in the region could have triggered it." He, for one, plumps for the notorious Narmada-Sone lineament, which runs through central India and has been implicated in many earthquakes, the latest being the 1997 Jabalpur tremors.
The magnitude is also contentious. The imd declared 6.9 Richter in its first readings from monitoring stations in Bhuj, Bhopal and Pune. Other observatories around the world reported 7.9. Gupta feels both are right...