Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Big earthquake risk, little preparedness

Most essential buildings for providing earthquake victims with support, shelter and treatment are still vulnerable to moderate tremors indicating the authorities will be in real trouble after a disaster.

Earthquake Bangladesh

The government has so far failed to take initiative to retrofit vulnerable buildings like hospitals, schools and fire stations which would be used for victims' treatment, shelter and rescue operations after an earthquake.
The authorities will not be able to provide people with treatment if hospitals are damaged in the event of an earthquake. And damaged schools and colleges, which are used as shelters during disasters, will not be able to accommodate victims, said ASM Maksud Kamal, urban risk reduction specialist of Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) of UNDP.
Risk analysis of hospitals should be conducted and steps should be taken, he said.
Quoting a study conducted by CDMP in 2009, Maksud said an earthquake of 7.5 magnitudes in Dhaka city, originated in the Madhupur fault, will moderately damage around 241 hospitals and clinics. At the same time 10 hospitals will be destroyed.
About 90 schools will be destroyed while 30 police stations and four fire stations will be moderately damaged, he said.
Prof Mehdi Ahmed Ansary of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology said fire fighters, the first to respond to such disasters, are also at risk as their stations, officers' quarters and barracks are susceptible to earthquakes over seven on the Richter scale.
There are 194 fire stations in Bangladesh and 119 of them, constructed in the Pakistan era, are considered more vulnerable, said Ansary.
The capital has 13 fire stations and 10 of them were constructed in the 60's, he said. The stations are the headquarters at Phulbaria, Tejgaon, Mohammadpur, Palashi, Postagola, Khilgaon, Tongi, Kurmitola, Sadarghat and Mirpur.
Former vice-chancellor of Brac University Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury said Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC-1993) recognises that buildings that are likely to have important roles after a disaster (termed essential facilities, which include hospitals, fire and police stations emergency preparedness centres, communication centres) have to be designed to survive bigger disasters than other structures.
In many areas under zone-2 and zone-3 of seismic zoning map of 1993, old buildings of that category may be severely damaged even in moderate earthquakes, he said. This would hamper post-disaster operations, he said.
Systematic study to identify these buildings is needed for carrying out a vulnerability analysis and retrofitting these buildings if necessary, Reza added.
Retrofitting brick structures would cost 10 percent the total construction cost and 30 to 35 percent in the case of reinforced concrete cement (RCC) structures, he added.
With polypropylene bands (PP bands), the cost of retrofitting RCC structures could be reduced, Reza said.
The people constructing buildings should use earthquake-resistant techniques, which will increase only 2 percent construction cost, he said.
He also spoke for evacuation drills thrice a year in key buildings.
There is an initiative to retrofit two buildings of Bangladesh Secretariat (building-1 and -4) and Dhaka Medical College Hospital under CDMP. An agreement is expected to be signed between CDMP and the Public Works Department soon, he said.
-Daily Star

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