By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, April 28: The Nepal earthquake, which has claimed more than 4,000 lives, is a reminder of India’s vulnerability.
For the record, Guwahati and Srigar are the two Indian cities at highest risk of being devastated by an earthquake, with 36 other cities in areas prone to earthquakes, according to government data.
Guwahati and Srigar fall in what is called “very severe intensity zone”, or zone V, the highest-risk earthquake zone.
But is the Assam government or the Assam State Disaster Magement Authority (ASDMA) prepared to handle any such disaster should it befall the State? Perhaps, even the government or the agencies concerned will not be able to give an umbiguous reply to this query.
It has been observed that governments and concerned agencies are jolted out of their slumber every time such a disaster takes place somewhere.
The immediate knee-jerk reactions from the government and ASDMA are awareness campaigns through advertisements in media, semirs and mock drills at convenient locations – like the one done at the State Secretariat today. The district disaster magement staff get training which are seldom updated. That too is not a regular feature.
A few years back, 93 buildings in the city were found to have had lacus of various forms. It was recommended that their faults should be corrected and the approach roads widened. Except in one or two instances, nothing much moved.
Areas like Fancy Bazar and Lakhtokia in Guwahati have been identified as high risk zones. Questions are being asked as to why a mock drill has not been conducted in these places so far.
The vital question now is whether the State has the adequate equipments necessary for rescue, evacuation and relief operations following a disaster?
Shockingly, the State did not even have a aerial ladder for long. The alarm following the Nepal quake prompted the ASDMA to order the equipment, necessary to rescue trapped residents from high-rises. Skeptics are doubting whether one such ladder would be adequate for Guwahati, leave alone the State.
Sources said the ASDMA has not been giving thrust on procurement of modern equipment, despite the State’s vulnerability.
The level of preparedness of the State in meeting disasters is exposed even during minor fire incidents. The fire tenders cannot ply on rrow lanes in the city.
Sometimes, it takes nearly an hour for a fire tender to reach the place of occurrence.
The catastrophe in Nepal should be a wake-up call for the agencies concerned to equip themselves to handle such an eventuality, concerned citizens feel.