Dhaka will be reduced to rubble and become “uninhabitable” if a major earthquake occurs anytime soon, experts said Tuesday.
The Savar building collapse brought Bangladesh’s disaster management capacity back under the spotlight, amid concerns there would be catastrophic humanitarian consequences in the event of a major earthquake.
At a discussion focussing on earthquakes, fire incidences and building collapses on Tuesday, experts shared their concerns. They said with its existing rescue and disaster management capacity, the country will face “huge difficulties” in the event of a major disaster.
“The Savar Tragedy underlined the government’s poor rescue capacity as it took them almost six days to rescue people trapped under rubble,” said ASM Maksud Kamal, a geology professor of the University of Dhaka (DU).
“Dhaka will be beyond rescue and literally uninhabitable if a 7.5-magnitude earthquake strikes, since almost 80% of total buildings are not approved by civil engineers.”
On April 24, an eight-storey building collapsed in Savar killing over 400 people and injuring thousands.
The rescue operation team, coordinated by the Department of Disaster Management, was reproached for lacking expertise and adequate training, which is why the process took longer than many expected.
Bangladesh is one of the most disaster prone areas in the world, vulnerable to an array of natural calamities, with 43% of its total areas falling under a high-risk zone in the region. Dhaka will be the most affected in case of an earthquake since it has developed in an unplanned way, Professor Kamal added.
He also said around 80,000 buildings in the city are at risk of collapsing, since most of them were constructed on low-lying land reclaimed from canals and wetlands. Plus there are risks involved with the city’s “55,000 electric pools and 834 km of gas line in the city that will make a mess in case of a medium-range earthquake,” he warns.