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Sunday, 4 February, 2001, 12:13 GMT
Earthquakes: What lessons can be learnt?
What lessons can be learnt?
The clear up operation after the Indian earthquake is in full swing, and it will be a while before we know the extent of the disaster that struck the state of Gujarat.

Soon, the earthquake and its effects will disappear from the headlines of international news networks. But it will take years before the villages and towns are rebuilt and even longer for people to come to terms with their human loss.

What is happening to communities that have been affected by earthquakes - this one or those affected by previous quakes in Ecuador, Turkey or Japan?

Have you been affected by an earthquake? What was it like? How long does it take before everyday life returns? Is there anything that can be done to prevent huge human losses in disasters like these?

HAVE YOUR SAY I think we should develop homes that float in the atmosphere so we won't be affected by earthquakes.
Daryl Moistner, Nevada, USA

I think that the governments of the richest 20-25 countries should give away the equivalent of 1 for every person who is eligible for work. This is then put into a central bank. When a major disaster like the earthquake in India happens, there is millions of pounds ready in hand. This will save lives as the gap between the disaster happening and aid arriving will be reduced. Anyway, 32m is not going to dent the UK economy.
Helen, UK

Gujarat can rise again phoenix-like just as Dresden, London and other European cities did from the ashes of World War II

Mohansingh, India
Though the earthquake was an enormous tragedy, it could be turned into an opportunity if projects for providing clean drinking water, sewage facilities, schools, hospitals and roads could be incorporated into the reconstruction plans of some RS 250 billion (preliminary estimates) that the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is advocating. Damage to modern industrial structures (Gujarat is one of the most industrialised states in India) has been minimal. The high-rise buildings (often contravening construction regulations) are mainly confined to urban areas like Ahmedabad but death and destruction has not spared the rural areas with their ancient housing stocks. Gujarat can rise again phoenix-like just as Dresden, London and other European cities did from the ashes of World War II.
Mohansingh, India

One lesson screams for attention. Do not conduct underground nuclear tests in fault line vicinity. Though this quake did not happen immediately after nuclear testing, it is hard to believe that the Pokhran tests were researched thoroughly for possible fallouts, considering they were conducted stealthily. Do not spend money on nuclear tests before you have any disaster management plan- not only for earthquakes - but also for floods (Orissa last year). Another lesson is the importance of infrastructure in its various forms and doing away with red tape. When we are faced with a natural calamity - all we can fall back on is the nearest communication infrastructure to get things done.
Emily Jones Mitchell, Indian in US

I am flying to India tomorrow on what was going to be a month's backpacking tour. With recent events, I was wondering whether my trip would be more worthwhile if I could help in the affected areas or would I just be in the way?
G. Findlay, UK

All we can do is give money and expertise and hope that nature does not outdo us too many times

Jose Fernandez, Netherlands
Unfortunately nothing can truly be done. The Kobe-quake of a couple of years ago hit a city that was very well prepared for it but it still wreaked havoc on the buildings and cost numerous lives. It does not matter how much money you put into systems and solutions, nature will outdo them any time. All we can do about the earthquake in India is give money and expertise and hope that nature does not outdo us too many times.
Jose Fernandez, Netherlands

As a qualified geologist I would like to make it clear that there is nothing "simple" about predicting earthquakes. It's like the weather, it's a system where microscopic features lead to infinite complexity and therefore are completely unpredictable. The only solution to it is to work out the exact probability of an earthquake at any given place and act accordingly. If people don't act and they have the money to do so (Tokyo and Los Angeles spring immediately to mind) then I'm sorry but However, there will never be a solution to this. People will always die in natural disasters.
Simon Groom, UK

Civil defence training and preparation can help in earthquakes and floods

Michael, UK
Since it is buildings, rather than earthquakes which kill, it seems better to address construction methods and the location of buildings. Civil defence training and preparation can help in earthquakes and floods. Every community should have a safe house, filled with water purification gear and emergency supplies. Why do we need to ship basic emergency supplies, like blankets, halfway around the world at every crisis? We need regional/ continental centres for training search and rescue teams and sharing the best in technology and methods.
Michael, UK

Establishing and ENFORCING building regulations is the key to minimising casualties. As an example, in the summer of 1999 there were earthquakes in Turkey and California that were of a similar magnitude. Although both countries had very similar building regulations, in Turkey these were not enforced. The result was a death toll of thousands compared to tens in California.
Mark Davies, UK

We are constantly reminded of our shortfalls whenever a disaster occurs, be it earthquake, volcanic eruption, flooding or adverse weather. We as human beings have the intelligence to improvise but due to lack of funds and resourcing, few of our ideas are actually adopted nationwide if not universally. As most deaths in earthquakes are caused through breaking masonry what we have to guard against is the rogue builders who either knowingly build to substandard or build on land that is either unstable or vulnerable to floods.
Hazel, UK

The fact is that we are never going to be able to prevent earthquakes and it is just as unlikely that we will ever be able to detect them to any degree of accuracy. The only option is to ensure that the countries where earthquakes occur have sufficient funds to ensure that buildings conform to the standards needed to resist earthquakes. After all what price a life?
Andrew Fryer, England

As a student, I learn in geography about earthquake prevention measures in various countries. Some places like Japan have earthquake-proof houses, which can stand all but the hardest earthquakes with little damage. In India, due to the size of the population and the general state of poverty compared to Japan, this may not be possible. I feel the best way to defend people against future disasters is an early-warning system and, as Saima Khan said, civil defence training. If everyone knows when something is going to happen and what to do, hundreds or thousands of lives could be saved.
Lim Tse Yang, Singapore

We experience minor shakers every couple of months

Ron McElfresh, Alaska, USA
We experience minor shakers every couple of months. Had a 6.1 a few years back. We have a metal roof and it sounded like it was raining rocks the vibration. Proper building codes and techniques help a lot in quake zones. I wouldn't want to be living near a swamp/ lowland or in an ocean community though.
Ron McElfresh, Alaska, USA

In my view civil defence training is a must. Every man, woman and child should be given this training to cope with natural calamities. Unfortunately countries like ours don't seem pay much attention to this.
Saima A. Khan, Pakistan

I find it interesting to note that we have advanced scientifically (sic) and still not found a close solution to the problem in predicting earthquakes. Billions of dollars are spent in space probes to detect extra-terrestrial life forms while citizens of the planet earth end up being crushed by nature and its forces.
Sean D'Souza, USA

There is not a lot you can do against the natural forces of nature. Some of the more well off countries use specialist materials to counter such quakes, but even then disasters happen. We are still awaiting the next San Francisco quake.
M. Rouse, UK

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See also:

31 Jan 01 | South Asia
Earthquake aid pours into India
31 Jan 01 | South Asia
Buried woman found alive
30 Jan 01 | South Asia
Aid effort switches to survivors
29 Jan 01 | UK Politics
UK gives 10m to Indian quake victims
30 Jan 01 | Media reports
Press faults quake relief effort
30 Jan 01 | South Asia
Rival Pakistan offers India help
31 Jan 01 | South Asia
E-mail: Survivors' fears

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