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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Delhi, and quakes...

In 2001, when the earthquake hit the Kutch, and killed 1,00,000 people, I was there for ten days, covering it for AIR.
People had been pole-axed by falling walls and columns in the very act of fleeing, and rigor mortis had set in their limbs, freezing the terror on their faces.
In one street in a Patel village, hundreds of corpses lay that way, each frozen in its own attitude, and I remembered the Mahabharata's description of the end of Dwarka, with the earthquake devastating the town, and sea rushing in...
Over 100 aftershocks hit the place in the succeeding two weeks.
In the last 11 years, in Delhi, there have been atleast half a dozen bad shocks, and it brings a sense of deja vu...
Last week, I had called in a couple of officers working with me, and we were having an accounts meeting, when my room on the fifth floor of my building started to heave.
The table shook from side to side, but both the people with me seemed to blissfully unaware of what was happening. Strangely, it seemed stupid to run out, or hide under a table as prescribed by our earthquake drill-master.
The people with me did not look too scared, but I was, having visions of building collapse.
If there is a even a fairly strong quake in Delhi, millions will die, as most of the buildings have been built without the ability to withstand quakes.
But then, life is cheap for us, right?
The town of Anjar lost some 10,000 people in the 2001 quake. When I went to Anjar, I found a memorial there, in memory of the five hundred people who had perished in 1956!! And the memorial had been inaugurated by Nehru. However, Anjar blissfully continued to build without an earthquake-resistant building code, and paid the price half a century later.
Delhi, too, will pay the price one day for this stupidity.
Let's hope it does not happen in our lifetimes...

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