Turkey, Syria earthquake: How equipped is Bangladesh to deal with such catastrophe?

A major earthquake caused havoc in Turkey and Syria. We offer our deepest condolences to those who lost their lives in this earthquake and sympathies to the injured. About 11,000 people have died in the two countries. Bangladesh is observing a national mourning today. Due to extremely cold weather in the earthquake area, the rescue operation is delayed. It can be assumed that the number of dead will increase by the time the rescue work is completed.

This earthquake is considered to be one of the deadliest earthquakes in the world in recent times. Scientists say that this catastrophic earthquake was created when the Arabian plate moved northward and pushed against the Anatolian plate. In 2003, an earthquake of magnitude 6.6 occurred near the city of Bam in Iran, killing 26,000 people.

This time large areas of Turkey and Syria have been reduced to rubble. People who are injured can be saved if they can be taken to hospital quickly after rescued out of the rubble. We call on all the countries and global humanitarian and voluntary organisations to come forward to help the people in need. Bangladesh sent a delegation of 70 members, including the rescuers, who left Dhaka for Turkey Wednesday night.

Although humans are helpless to prevent earthquake, it is possible to reduce the damage by building earthquake-resistant buildings. In the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, many houses in the capital Kathmandu collapsed. Geological experts say that areas from Sylhet to Chattogram are at great risk of earthquakes due to the presence of several plates in the region.

If an earthquake occurs at these fault lines, there is a high risk of major damage or havoc in all of Bangladesh including Dhaka. The last major earthquakes in Bangladesh occurred in 1822 and 1918 on the Madhupur fault. In 1885, an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 occurred in Manikganj near Dhaka.

Experts say, many multi-storied buildings have been constructed in Dhaka city by flouting building codes and land type regulations. Buildings that are built on red soil or hard soil are less risky. On the other hand, the buildings which are built on sand and soft soil, the risk of collapsing turns very high. Ironically, many buildings in Dhaka and its surrounding areas are built on swamps filled with sand and soft soil. Therefore, even a minor earthquake can cause grave catastrophe.

After the collapse of Rana Plaza, the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) offered to prepare a list of how earthquake-resistant the buildings in Dhaka are. But Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) denied it as such a list would have identified the weakness of RAJUK alongside the risky buildings.

The Rana Plaza incident has clearly shown our inability and inefficiency in rescue work. Compared to that, Turkey's capacity to deal with earthquake crises is much stronger. Even then, human catastrophe could not be avoided there. It is not hard to predict the situation in case Bangladesh witnesses even a less powerful earthquake.