We’ve been warned

Wednesday, Feb 08, 2023

Over 5000 people have been reported dead, as of writing, in Turkiye and Syria after massive twin earth quakes in the neighbouring countries. This event highlights the importance of building resilient infrastructure. In Japan, for example, all buildings from skyscrapers to bungalows are built to withstand earthquakes with a magnitude of up to 7.9. Even if the earthquake exceeds this very high bar, the buildings have been designed in a manner that minimizes human casualties. The earthquakes that hit Turkiye and Syria were off magnitudes 7.8 and 7.6, respectively. Had they hit Japan instead, the loss of life would have been dramatically lower.

Pakistan is no stranger to earthquakes, particularly in the north of the country. The 2005 7.6 magnitude earthquake in Azad Kashmir killed approximately 87,000 people while displacing around 2.8 million. Since then the populations of our most earthquake-prone zones has grown at a rapid pace, with resorts and housing societies extended their tendrils across Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and north Punjab. Did the rulers learn any lessons from that tragedy? What has transpired in Syria and Turkiye is a sharp reminder of the price we will pay if they haven’t.

Hashim Abro