Humans are the superior social animals instilled with emotions, feelings and most importantly wisdom. The world has greatly evolved from the primitive stone age to the modern world. The credit of this drastic change solely goes to humans and their broad horizon of knowledge. With the advancement of technology, it seems that there is nothing humans cannot achieve.
Despite all the development and advancement there still exists one aspect of nature that is beyond the control of humans i.e. natural disasters. Natural disasters are unpredictable events of nature mostly resulting in catastrophic damage. One such natural disaster that humans still do not have any hold of is an earthquake.
An earthquake is a sudden event of movement of the surface of the earth or ground resulting from the passage of seismic waves through the tectonic plates and rocks of Earth. It is unpredictable and can occur any day of the year, any second of time, causing a lot of negative impacts and sufferings. The world has witnessed many devastating quakes that caused significant destruction and losses and one such earthquake is the Gujarat Earthquake,2001.
The Gujarat Earthquake,2001: The Event
On 26 th January 2001, while the entire nation of India was all set to celebrate the 52 nd Republic Day, a massive earthquake struck Gujarat. The 2001 Gujarat earthquake also commonly known as the Bhuj earthquake occurred at 8:46 a.m. The epicentre was at Bhuj which is the District Headquarter of Kutch district in the state of Gujarat. The earthquake was indeed very powerful and recorded 6.9 on the Richter scale (Mw 7.6). It lasted over two minutes and what happened next was unimaginable and catastrophic.
The shakes induced was felt in about 70% of the regions of the country and the tremors were felt even in Nepal and Pakistan. It resulted in a loss of over 20,000 lives and left behind over 1.7 lakhs people injured. Moreover, it caused severe damages to the physical infrastructures and leftover 229 villages damaged beyond repair. About 600 aftershocks of magnitude ranging from 2.8 to 5.9 have been recorded so far.
Causes of the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake
Gujarat is located at a distance of 300-400 km from the boundary of the Indian plate and Eurasian plate. According to geologists, the earthquake occurred at the convergent boundary between the two tectonic plates making Gujarat the epicentre of the earthquake. Even today the continuous continental collision of the plate boundary between the Indian Plate and the Eurasian plate governs the plate tectonics of the region. This area faced a roughly west-east rifting trend during the break-up of Gondwana in the Jurassic.
The area has also undergone shortening during the collision with Eurasian plate thereby reactivating the existing rift faults and leading to the development of new low-angle thrust faults. Hence, the Gujarat earthquake,2001 occurred due to the movement on the previously unknown south-dipping fault tending parallel to the deduced rift formations.
Parameters of the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake
According to the teleseismic data, the epicentral coordinates of the mainshock were 23.36 degrees north and 70.34 degrees east. The seismic moment of the event is estimated to be about 6.2*10^28 dyne-cm. The uplift was 2m, 15 km west of the epicentre. The shake had reverse motion with severe shakes that lasted about 85 seconds and minor shakes that lasted several minutes. As per the reports of the survivors, two different distinctive pulses were felt which may be due to the separate arrivals of the P wave and S wave.
Areas affected by the Earthquake
The post-earthquake reports suggest that the areas as far as 300km from the epicentre were affected. Among the 25 districts of the state of Gujarat, 22 districts suffered severe damage. The Kutch district was the most severely damaged one. The four major areas of this district namely Bhuj, Anjar, Bachau and Rapar were almost destroyed.
In rural regions, almost 229 villages were severely damaged. Ahemdabad which is about 300km from the epicentre also suffered considerable destructions.
Effects of the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake
The Gujarat Earthquake,2001 directly affected the existing geographical formations, physical infrastructures, human settlements and lives, livestock and other animals and other assets of the country. Some of the effects of the earthquake can be summarized as follows:
Though, no significant evidence for fault rupture has been found post the earthquake, however, ground deformations and ground cracks were prominent in the severely affected areas. The reports suggest that these have originated as a result of liquefaction and lateral spreading during the quake.
Generally, liquefaction can be understood as the phenomenon of loss of strength and stiffness of soil particularly saturated due to excessive stress such as seismic forces. The Gujarat earthquake resulted in the production of widespread liquefaction in the Rann area, Gulfs of Kutch and Kandla river.
Extensive slope failure occurred in several regions. Rock slope failure could be observed in an area over 10,000 km. The regions near Bhuj and Bhachau suffered prominent slope failures.
Effect on Infrastructures:
The Gujarat earthquake destroyed 300,000 houses. On top of that, over 700,000 houses were partially destroyed. The monuments, pagodas, historical places and tombs of Kutch and Saurashtra also either collapsed or suffered serious damage.
According to the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), about 40% of the heritages were collapsed or severely damaged. Bridges and railways of the affected area were also destructed. Fibre optics providing communications to the areas became unfunctional.
Effect on Human lives and Death tolls:
The Gujarat Earthquake took away thousands of lives as well as left thousands of people homeless. As per the sources, the earthquake killed about 20,000 people among which 18 people were from the southeastern part of Pakistan.
About 1,67,000 people were injured. The death toll in the Kutch region alone reached 12,300. The settlement of Bhuj was devastated. Several hundred people were also killed in Ahemdabad.
Rescue Efforts & Relief Operations
Since the earthquake occurred on Republic Day, most of Government machinery was occupied thus immediate Government response was not possible. Only the emergency control room of the capital state of Gandhinagar became operational by 9:30 a.m.
The destruction was so massive that the relief operations could not be carried out immediately. Relief operations began 72 hours after the earthquake both from within and outside the country. The Indian Air Force was employed for distribution of relief materials such as blankets, packed foods, tents, and medicine.
Read More: Places to hide during earthquake
Read More: 2011 Earthquake in Japan