Tuesday, September 20, 2011

6.9 Richter Earthquake in Darjeeling - Sikkim Himalayas : The Kalimpong Chapter

Rainfall data of Kalimpong from 14Sep -19Sep2011.
  • 14Sep - 16mm
  • 15Sep - 57mm
  • 16Sep - 25mm
  • 17Sep - 11mm
  • 18Sep -114mm ( mostly from 9am to 2.30pm) . The quake hit us at 6.10pm
  • 19Sep - 14mm
  • Total rainfall from 14-19Sep2011 - 237mm
  • Average rainfall for Sep (Darjeeling district) - 388mm ( Source http://imd.gov.in)

    Thus we received approx 61% of the monthly rainfall in just 6 days and  the quake struck us barely 4 hrs after a spell of very heavy rainfall.

    Fact Sheet :-
  • As on date there were 4 fatalities in Kalimpong caused directly or indirectly by the quake.
  • There has been huge damage to infrastructure all over Kalimpong sub-division with most of the damage being to older type homes/ buildings.

    Why we escaped :-
  • The quake lasted barely 20secs.
  • The first 10days of Sep2011 was more or less dry hence despite the heavy rain (see above), there were no major earthquake-induced landslides.
  • The timing (6.10pm IST) of the quake ensured that all were wide awake and that we could help each other.
  • There was absolutely no rain during or after the quake so we could wait for some hours in the open for the after shocks to get past.
  • On 18Sep2011 night (after the quake), it was cool outside and not the depth of winters when we would have frozen while remaining out doors.

    What did not work :-
  •  Cell phones :- They just went dead and for hours we could not get any news from any one.
    The reasons could be technical malfunction or congestion on the lines with too much traffic from anxious people.
    Possible solution 1 :- Making people aware about making short, precise calls and avoid jamming the networks with long avoidable chats.
    Possible solution 2 :- Use land line phones where possible.
  • Power supply :- Whether intentional or accidental, the power blinked off so we were left with what ever backup systems (battery powered inverters) we had and sooner than later they also packed up leaving us in the dark.
    Possible solution 1 :- Solar powered backup lights.
    Possilbe solution 2 :- See  "What worked" below.
  • Internet -Never the most dependable or stable means of communication - the net also packed up.

    What worked :-
  • The warmth of people who helped, cared and phoned or called.
  • The much forgotten and neglected Kerosene hurricane lamps.
  • Candles and matchsticks.
  • Warm clothes.
  • Transistor radio.
  • A hot meal!

    What we could do better and lessons learnt
  • Never assume it cannot happen to us.
  • Learn to be self reliant and try to survive the disaster and 3 days after without external help.
  • Get a family survival kit ready.
  • Get the community involved - they are the weakest link which could transpose into the strongest one.
  • Make a disaster management plan at the family and community level and REHEARSE the plan with all members ie go thru mock drills!
  • Don't spread rumors - no one knows when the next quake will occur, but being prepared will help.

    Praful Rao

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