- By Khin Maung Htay
(Ministry of Education)
Myanmar, lying in a major seismic belt, is indeed earthquake-prone and vulnerable to hazards from moderate and large magnitude earthquakes. Consecutive quakes usually happen after events of a tremor. The experts have conducted earthquake risk assessments of several towns and cities across the country.
An earthquake is the shaking of the surface of the earth, resulting from the sudden release of energy in the earth’s lithosphere that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes can range in size from those that are so weak that they cannot be felt to those violent enough to toss people around and destroy whole cities.
Earthquake awareness is needed and it is of great importance to educate the public on what to do in the event of an earthquake, including in schools. People should know they can take refuge under a table or bed, or get out into the open space.
Myanmar has three main earthquake zones: the western fold belt, central basin and eastern highlands. While earthquakes are more common on the western fold belt, particularly in its northern section, earthquakes in the central basin, which includes the Sagaing Fault, tended to be more destructive. The Sagaing Fault is one of the major active faults in Myanmar, more than 1,200 km in length from the Andaman Sea to Putao in Kachin State.
Earthquakes in Myanmar
According to the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH), Myanmar was hit with an unusually large number of earthquakes. A total of 19 earthquakes occurred between 1 to 14 of January 2018, which originated from the Western Bago Yoma Fault.
An earthquake measuring 5.8 Magnitudes on the Richter scale jolted about 15 miles away from south-west of Homalin Town in 2018, and it was regarded as one of the major quakes and another strong earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale near the Phu Township had occurred as a consequence.
Important historic earthquake in Myanmar
Myanmar has experienced strong quakes frequently. Out of them, strong quakes which caused massive destruction are as follows:
1. Innwa earthquake in 1899
2. Bago earthquake in 1930, measuring 7.5 on Richter scale
3. Myitkyina earthquake in 1931, measuring 7.6 Richter scale
4. Mawlaik earthquake in 1947, measuring 8.0 Richter scale
5. Sagaing earthquake in 1956
6. Bagan earthquake in 1975, measuring 6.5 Richter scale
7. Tarlay earthquake in 1990
8. Thabeikkyin earthquake in 2012
Earthquake, unpredictable Disaster
Earthquakes are not predictable in the short term but information can be obtained for the long run and based on that information, quake hazard maps for cities and villages can be drawn.
Until now, no one can predict when, where and to which extent on the Richter scale, an earthquake will happen. Only after it breaks out can its volume be measured. Yet, according to the records, strong earthquakes can happen during the period of 80-100 years.
In the past, Myanmar as well saw strong earthquakes for several times, hence the need for the nation as well as the whole national populace to make preparations, anticipating imminent dangers of quakes.
In order to avoid these consequences of earthquakes as much as possible, buildings should be constructed with quake-proof standards only after careful and systematic planning such as installation of danger-safe systems and advanced warning systems. Thus arrangements for rescue and evacuation should also be made in advance.
The Sagaing Fault is a major tectonic structure and one of the major active faults in Myanmar. The fault has experienced many earthquakes in her history. In addition, several major cities lie along this active fault. Therefore, the seismic studies become critically important. Using GPS methods to investigate the tectonic activity of the Sagaing Fault can yield reliable information.
Earthquake disaster mitigation programs need to be accelerated to ensure the country’s growing urban areas are prepared for future disasters.
Setting up modern seismology stations and global positioning system measuring devices along the major active faults, developing modern seismic micro zone maps and preparing an earthquake-resistant design code based on maps and research data are crucial steps for earthquake disaster mitigation.
Many countries such as Japan and Indonesia are on alert for impending earthquakes every day due to their location on the earthquake prone area.
The Indonesian archipelago is constantly at risk of earthquakes and volcanic eruption; people are aware of the threat faced by these disasters and are prepared to respond to possible threats.
To address the dangers of the natural disaster, arrangements and preparation have been made to ensure that the schools in Myanmar have emergency plans and students have practiced safe evacuation protocol. As for the ministries concerned, effective disaster mitigation programmes should be accelerated in schools and public places of the country.
It is essential to have drawn up emergency plans for finding, rescuing and rehabilitating victims when natural disasters occur.
Hence, arrangements should be made concerning preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation which are included in the emergency plans.
The relevant ministries, on the other hand, have warned the public via the media to take precautions to avoid “deaths and damages” caused by unpredictable earthquakes.
Translated by Win Ko Ko Aung