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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh not ready for the big one

Update : 26 Apr 2015, 08:39 PM

Bangladesh is neither ready for a major earthquake nor a major man-made disaster, disaster management expert Professor Mahbuba Nasreen told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday. 

“The public just does not know what to do in an emergency,” she said.

Saturday’s severe earthquake left at least three dead in three districts in Bangladesh, with one dying when a mud wall collapsed and two collapsing in panic during the tremor.

At its epicentre in neighbouring Nepal, the quake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, according to the US Geological Survey.

Many more were injured while evacuating their offices and houses in both the country’s cities and rural areas.

Professor Mahbuba said the deaths and injuries were mostly the result of panic and ignorance.

Causalities could be avoided if people were aware about what to do in the event of an earthquake, she added.

During earthquakes, people should remain calm and position themselves beneath beams and evacuate buildings or dwellings after the shock waves subside.

Besides not having adequate preparation, the country does not know how to reduce damages during natural disasters, she said.

Citing the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013, she said the government took several days to complete the rescue operation and remove debris from the disaster site.

According to Bangladesh Meteorological Department records, the last major earthquake – with a magnitude of 8.5 on the Richter scale – hit the region in 1950. Its epicentre was in Assam, India.

In 1918, a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 hit the region, which its epicentre in Srimangal, Bangladesh.

Professor Mahbuba said public awareness campaigns were needed to prepare the public to cope with such situations.

But she added that the government has included awareness-building lessons on earthquakes in primary schools since 2013.

The director general of the department of disaster management, Dr Abdul Wajed, said the country has paid more attention to facing disasters than preventing them.

The government is improving its capacity to handle such disasters by procuring tools and equipment to run rescue operations.

It aims to make some 62,000 volunteers ready to work as rescuers. Some 24,000 volunteers have been trained so far.

Mandatory building codes are in place to avoid large-scale structural failures during such events, he added.

But Professor Mahbuba said procuring equipment is just part of the solution. Ensuring adequate roads and paths to operate rescue equipment, especially in crowded cities like Dhaka, is equally important. 

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