a strange observation

When we were moving around the city of Balakot we noticed this strange thing. While every structure in Balakot was completely destroyed (except for two small houses and a shop that we could see in the entire city), most of the houses we saw on mountains around us were still standing. Yes they were demaged but most of them were looking incredibly OK with just cracks in the walls. I even noticed some wood structures standing without much demage. I was told that they were used to store food for harsh winter. A local guy told me that houses located on mountans were only destroyed when a mud slide took them down into the river. And I noticed similar thing in outskirts of Mansehra too.

People, however, were very much afraid to stay in those houses and ofcourse there were still aftershocks coming. May be some expert can explain this but I just found it very strange indeed.

1 Comment so far

  1. exciton (unregistered) on October 17th, 2005 @ 4:24 am

    Though I am definitely not an expert, I can guess a couple of reasons:

    1. The shock-waves travelling up (and away) the from the epicenter, always experience a high level of dampness.

    2. The wooden and steel based structures are a better choice than concrete and brick structures in a seismically active areas. The reason is due to brittleness of concrete, when the ground shakes, concrete structure reaches its critical point and fails very early, whereas wood and steel would be more tolerant to this oscillation. If you have main supporting columns made of wood or steel-composite, there is a greater probability that the structure would survive the quake, due to the nature of the material.

    A general perception is that the older structures withstood the event much more than the newer construction, especially the contractor built government buildings were all destroyed. Poor contruction (as in corruption) on the part of the contractors as well as non-existent building codes even in a known quake zone is partly the reason for this problem. Most of the deaths were because heavy concrete structures fell on the unexpecting inhabitants.

    This area was a known earthquake zone, as there have been strong earthquakes nearby, of course nothing like this major event. Which unfortunately was expected by geologists but the science of prediction is extremely limited. Therefore the best they can tell you is that there is a lot of pressure on this fault and it will be released sometimes, but not when. But we were either not interested or not listening, or both.

    Therefore, the sad reality is that like many other things, we were caught unprepared. And due to our extreme population density, there was so much loss of life. Can you ever prepare for the quake? In some ways yes. You cannot predict it accurately, but you can prepare for its aftermath.

    We have been a very strangely “fortunate” nation, over our history we never had to deal with a major disaster like this one; consequently we are ill-equipped to deal with a natural calamity on such a large scale.

    Insha Allah, one hopes that we will become more vigilant, more disciplined and more organized.

    One thing we must make sure that people of Pakistan learn a few key lessons from this cqlamity. And that those lessons must be upheld as core-values and should be assimilated into our core Pakistani-culture.

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