Even as an earthquake of 6.6 magnitude struck the Hindu Kush region in Afghanistan on Tuesday, doctors at a hospital in Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag district kept their nerve to deliver a baby while strong tremors shook the Valley and other parts of north India forcing people to rush out of their homes. The incident perhaps echoes the fading memories of the child who came out of the rubble after a catastrophic earthquake of 7.8 magnitude devastated Turkey and Syria on February 6.
Several such emotive moments become reality every time the earth rumbles. Yesterday’s earthquake was felt in Turkmenistan, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, China, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Social media was soon flooded with visuals of people in Delhi-NCR thronging to the streets while fans and lights shook and swung triggering panic.
Disaster has a long history. And we have a short future to understand what is perhaps making it a recurring incident. Against this backdrop, Outlook’s issue, 'Deliver Us From Greed’, on March 1, 2023, looked at how climate change, poor planning and mindless construction leads to catastrophic ‘natural’ disasters which are marked by greed and arrogance.
While we once more revisit the painful memories of disasters, we also look at the devastating earthquakes in history that have forced human being scaling heights to kneel down:
The combined death toll from the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on February 6 rose to nearly 50,000. Meanwhile, officials informed that at least 164,000 buildings either collapsed or are so damaged that they need to be demolished. The local civil defence in northwestern Syria, known locally as The White Helmets, said that thousands of children and tens of thousands of families have taken shelter in cars and tents “fearing they would face a repeat of the earthquake.” The earthquake left thousands of aftershocks that came as a double blow to Syrian refugees in Turkey, who are having to re-live the trauma of war in their homeland.
On Saturday, a strong earthquake shook southern Ecuador and northern Peru, killing at least 14 people, trapping others under rubble, and sending rescue teams out into streets littered with debris and fallen power lines. The U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a magnitude of about 6.8 that was centred just off the Pacific Coast, about 50 miles (80 kilometres) south of Guayaquil, Ecuador's second-largest city. One of the victims died in Peru, while 13 others died in Ecuador, where authorities also reported that at least 126 people were injured. Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso told reporters the earthquake had "without a doubt generated alarm in the population."
In 2010, a powerful earthquake of 7 magnitude on the Richter scale left nearly 3,16,000 people dead. Some reports put the death toll at 2,20,000. The tremors of the earthquake were even felt in neighbouring countries including Cuba and Venezuela. The natural calamity also left a deep scar on the country’s people who were left displaced after the tragedy.
In 2004, a powerful earthquake of 9.1 magnitude struck Indonesia’s Sumatra island. The powerful shockwaves created ripples not only in Indonesia, but other countries including Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. The calamity left nearly 2,27,899 people dead. The earthquake in the Indian Ocean also resulted in devastating tsunamis ranging from 15-30 metres in height.
In 2008, an earthquake of 7.9 magnitude hit China’s Sichuan province. The calamity left 87,000 people dead and over 3,70,000 people injured.
In 2011, an earthquake of 9.1 magnitude hit Japan. The resulting tsunami killed around 18,000 people. The earthquake also resulted in damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant resulting in a nuclear disaster as well.
In 2015, a powerful earthquake of 7.8 magnitude hit Nepal. The disaster left over 8,000 people dead and left thousands of people homeless. It was the worst natural disaster reported in Nepal since 1934.
In 1998, an earthquake of 6.6 magnitude struck Afghanistan. There were two earthquakes that struck the country that year. The first quake in February in the province of Takhar killed around 2,300 people (some estimate the casualties at 4,000). The second quake of 6.6 magnitude struck the same region in May, killing around 4,700 people.
In 1923, a powerful earthquake of 7.9 magnitude hit Japan. The disaster left over 1,42,000 people dead. It also resulted in the collapse of over half of the brick buildings at the time. The quake also triggered tsunamis with a height of up to 12m. The earthquake was followed by fires and tornados.
In 1960, Chile was hit by a powerful earthquake of 9.5 magnitude. The disaster lasted for about 10 minutes and killed around 1,000-6,000 people.
1976 China earthquake
In 1976, China was hit by a powerful earthquake of 7.5 magnitude. The earthquake struck country’s Tangshan region killing over 2,42,000 people. There are a few more deadly earthquakes recorded in ancient history:
1556 (16th century) China earthquake:
A magnitude 8 earthquake struck China’s Shaanxi region, killing a massive 8,30,000 people at the time. The impact of the quake was such that in some counties, it is estimated that 60% of the population was killed. In ancient history, earthquakes in Antakya in modern-day Turkey (526 AD), also killed lakhs of people and sent cities into complete ruin. In 856 AD, an entire city had to be abandoned due to the extensive damage caused by a 7.9 earthquake.
(with agency inputs)