Earthquake experts have warned of a major tremor in the “coming days” in the Delhi national capital region (NCR) after 10 low to moderate events over one-and-a-half months.
Some geologists have interpreted the earthquakes as a potential sign of a bigger quake brewing. Dr Kalachand Sain, Chief of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, said: “We cannot predict time, place or exact scale, but do believe that there is a consistent seismic activity going around in the NCR region and can trigger in a major earthquake in Delhi.”
India’s capital sits in a highly seismic region and the NCR covers some 573 square miles. Tens of millions of people live in this part of the country.
Professor Chandon Ghose of the Indian Institute of Technology, Jammu, has warned the effects of a major earthquake in the region could be cataclysmic.
He said: “Everyone knows that Delhi-NCR falls under seismic zone-4, and it’s prone to tremors but still most of the builders do not conform to the norms of BIS.
“There is a nexus between architects and builders which somehow compromise the stringent earthquake (resistant) codes.
“So, on any given day, if an earthquake of higher magnitude strikes here, the consequences would be grievous.”
According to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), many of the buildings in the region do not adhere to mandatory guidelines.
On Friday, May 29, two tremors shook Delhi, peaking at magnitude 4.5 on the Richter scale.
A magnitude 4.3 earthquake also struck southeast of Sohra near the India- Bangladesh border on June 3.
Professor Ghose said: “At Richter scale 6.0, the effect of the earthquake in Delhi would be devastating. Many buildings would be razed to dust.”
Comparing the situation to Japan, the earthquake expert said the country “religiously” follows constructions codes.
Japan, which sits in the Pacific Ring of Fire, is one of the most seismically active regions in the world.
Professor Ghose said: “Their quality of construction can resist tremors measured at 7 or even 8.”
Between April 12 and May 29 this year, the National Centre for Seismology has recorded 10 earthquakes in the Delhi NCR.
Dr A K Shukla, former Head of Earthquake Risk Evaluation Centre, Indian Metrology Department, said: “Most of these earthquakes were of low magnitude measuring from 2.3 to 4.5.
“However, a series of such earthquakes ostensibly warn of a major earthquake to hit Delhi in coming days.
“One of the reasons for increasing numbers of tremors hitting Delhi is that the local fault system here is quite active.
“Such fault systems around Delhi are capable of producing an earthquake of magnitude around 6 to 6.5.”
The Seismic Hazard Microzonation Study also found parts of South and Central Delhi are safer than areas near the Yamuna riverbed.
Dr Shukla said: “Our study recommends an urgent modification in existing building code.
“However, the government has yet to implement the report which underlines the new safety measures to be taken by authorities to secure people’s life and property in case a major earthquake hits the metro.”
Most geologists, however, agree there is no way to predict when or where a major earthquake will strike.
According to the US Geological Survey (USGS) swarms of small tremors and consecutive earthquakes increasing in magnitude can sometimes act as precursors, but are not guaranteed to do so.
Every day several million earthquakes strike across the globe.
The USGS said: “Earthquake prediction may some day become a reality, but only after much more is learned about earthquakes.”