At least 50,000 people have been killed in the earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria, including about 6,000 people in Syria, mostly in the north-west.
Tens of thousands of people remain missing, and hundreds of thousands are homeless.
Thousands of children were declared orphans amid massive destruction of property, livelihood, and hope in just minutes. People lost their loved ones and their documents, bank account details, certificates, and identities.
In October 2022, India experienced extreme weather events on 30 of the 31 days. While on all 30 days, some parts of the country recorded heavy rains, floods, and landslides. On October 4, 2022, Uttarakhand witnessed an avalanche that killed dozens and damaged property and crops.
October is usually a lean month in terms of rainfall, as it sees the exit of the monsoon from the subcontinent and the onset of the Northeast monsoon.
At least 197 people died due to the extreme weather events in October. This roughly works out to six deaths a day for the month.
Who can forget the floods in Srinagar and its surroundings in 2014 and the earthquake in Kashmir in 2005 that rocked Kashmir killing hundreds and displacing thousands with massive infrastructure damage?
According to the Ministry of Earth Sciences, approximately 59% of India’s land mass is vulnerable to earthquakes of varying magnitude. Cities and towns in eight states and union territories are in seismic zone-5 and are vulnerable to the most powerful earthquakes.
Even New Delhi and its surroundings are classified as zone-4, the second-highest level. “11% area of the country falls in zone V, 18% in zone IV, 30% in zone III and remaining in zone II”.
Zone five includes parts of north-eastern India, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, part of North Bihar, and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
Zone four includes the remaining parts of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, Union Territory of Delhi, Sikkim, northern parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal, parts of Gujarat, and small portions of Maharashtra near the west coast and Rajasthan.
Zone three includes Kerala, Goa, Lakshadweep islands, remaining parts of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. Zone two, the least seismic-prone zone, covers the remaining parts of the country.
What World Economic Forum said in 2023 The Global Risks Report 2023, released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on January 12, 2023, concluded that ‘failure to mitigate climate change’ and failure of climate change adaptation are the two most significant risks facing the world.
The other two major risks include natural disasters, extreme weather events, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem collapse. By 2033, the interconnections between biodiversity loss, pollution, natural resource consumption, climate change and socioeconomic drivers will make for a dangerous mix.
Who suffers the most?
The impact of natural disasters or extreme weather events disproportionately affect the populations and dwellings of low and middle-income countries, including India, other South Asia countries, and developing coastal countries across Latin America, Africa, and East Asia.
India recorded extreme weather events on 291 of the 334 days between January 1 and November 30, 2022 (87 per cent of the time over 11 months).
It is also not a hidden fact that Jammu and Kashmir is prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, landslides, and snowstorms. Every year, the J&K faces hundreds of deaths and destruction by the impact of natural disasters or extreme weather conditions.
Are we prepared to face the challenges?
With the changing climate effects, where the globe is warming and seasons are changing, are civilians and authorities prepared to face the changes?
Have we learnt lessons from recent earthquakes, storms, and warnings from credible global platforms?
In most cases or events, we are still determining what we must do in case of an emergency. The local communities and volunteers, who usually are the first to respond to a disaster, need further training to support the sufferer, which includes rescuing and caring for survivors and managing the dead.
Local residential associations, Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), or Mohalla Committees must consider making their areas safe and having quick reaction teams in emergencies like fires, earthquakes, floods, or other natural disasters.
Do we have cellars and underground bunkers if peacetime nuclear plants get damaged by earthquakes or floods or if industrial gas leaks
accidentally? Do residential areas or religious places have designated assembly points in case people need to assemble to wade disasters like stampedes, earthquakes, fires, etc.?
While I tried to do quick cursory research through telephone in Srinagar and its surroundings, I found that we are still unprepared to handle the mass casualties and do not have enough hospital storages to keep the dead dignity.
Seven out of ten people don’t know how to react if they witness a road accident or if someone is bleeding. Seven out of ten don’t understand the meaning of “first responder.” Whom should they call for support or help? Is there one telephone number known to the masses, like 100 tel number, that belongs to the police control room?
Seven out of ten have yet to hear of any training or awareness being given to the civilians to face any eventuality by professionals like the State Disaster Management Authority or police, fire services, home guards etc.
No fire extinguisher or survival kits Hardly any home has a fire extinguisher or a survival kit with them in case they get trapped in a major earthquake or landslide.
No one has an idea of a cellar or underground bunker in case of nuclear radiation or chemical leak from a laboratory/factory, not to mention the consequences of a nuclear war or cyber-attack.
Jammu and Kashmir need to take baby-step precautions, and authorities should start awareness programmes in peacetime through volunteers and
NGOs so that people can take immediate steps in an emergency.
To begin with, an earthquake kit is a must for every family, school, hospital, office etc. The minimum should be:
Two/three days of drinking water for each member of your family/office (at least 1 gallon per person, per day)
Three days’ supply of non-perishable food, First aid kits for your home, religious places, schools, offices, and autos.
Extra flashlights with extra batteries Power packs for mobile phones Prescription medications Whistle Small tools like hammer, screwdriver, spade, scissors Copies of your important documents, bank account, certificates Extra pair of reading glasses some Cash and small bills are best.
Also, some drills for residents, school children, staff of the hospitals, stadiums etc., are a must in peace and standard times that the State Disaster
Management Authority, Fire Brigade, and local police department should organise.
A small people-friendly training capsule is required to prepare locals to face an emergency. Authorities must train trainers like Asha workers, religious leaders, volunteers, home guards, NGOs, and Mohalla Committees who can further train residents.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.