The powerful earthquake that hit Iran and Iraq, killing over 400 people in its wake, is another terrifying reminder for Bangladesh this year that the threat of an earthquake is very real and the consequences disastrous.
Over 200 people were killed after the earthquake that hit Mexico City in September.
And according to experts, there is a high chance that a major earthquake could hit Bangladesh very soon.
Dhaka city is especially ill-prepared for such a disaster. Not only are the city’s structures poorly designed to withstand earthquakes, they are also exceedingly cluttered and tightly packed together, giving people little room to run for shelter.
Imagine evacuating an entire building only to have all the inhabitants trapped outside because of surrounding structures.
And now imagine a rescue operation: How is anyone going to maneuver the equipment when we barely have space for people to move?
While we appreciate the government for trying to make newly constructed buildings more resistant to tremors, the fact remains that over 80% of existing buildings in the city are non-engineered and that over 25% will be extensively damaged in the event of an earthquake.
Surely, there must be more we can do besides training first-responders.
Perhaps now is the time that the government should seriously consider taking bold steps to decentralise and rapidly develop areas outside Dhaka so as to reduce the pressure here.
With fewer people, more open space, and fewer non-compliant structures built on sand-filled land, residents of Dhaka would have much better chances of survival in the event of a disaster.