In the wake of the strong 7.9 magnitude earthquake that killed over a 1,500 people in Nepal and left a swathe of devastation in the northern Himalayas on Saturday, experts said a temblor of equal intensity is “Overdue” in northern India.
“An earthquake of the same magnitude is overdue. That may happen either today or 50 years from now… in the region of the Kashmir, Himachal, Punjab and Uttrakhand Himalayas. Seismic gaps have been identified in these regions,” said B.K. Rastogi, the director general of the Ahmedabad-based Institute of Seismological Research.
This is because the movement of tectonic plates generates stress over time, and rocks at the surface break in response. When the stress accumulates, every 100 km stretch of the 2,000-km-long Himalayas can be hit by a high-magnitude earthquake.
“The accumulation of stress is going on everywhere. But where it will reach the elastic limit, we don’t know nor also when. But what we do know is that it is happening everywhere,” Rastogi added.
“With 20 such locations that are prone to high-intensity earthquakes, it takes 200 years for an earthquake of this magnitude to happen on this belt. In 1833, the same epicentre – 80 km northwest of Kathmandu – an earthquake of 7.5 magnitude had hit the region,” he said.
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Saturday’s quake, measuring 6 on the Richter scale in Delhi, had a depth of 10 km and its impact lasted up to one minute.
The US Geological Survey said the epicentre was in Nepal’s Lamjung district some 75 km from Kathmandu. The aftershocks were felt even half-an-hour after the quake and some lasted till evening.
Rastogi said that the earthquake uplifted the rocks by four meters, rupturing an area 100 km long and 50 meters wide of the epicentre.
Scientist PR Vaidya at IMD, said Nepal falls on the Alpine-Himalayan belt, one among the three seismic belts on the Earth’s surface, which is responsible for 10 per cent of the world’s earthquakes.
The Apline-Himalayn belt, which is prone to high-intensity earthquakes, runs through New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and northeast India, from where it turns to Nepal and then to Jammu and Kashmir, up to Afghanistan and the Mediterranean Sea. It finally ends in Europe.