Roger Bilham a seismologist has revealed that more devastating earthquakes are likely to take place in the Kashmir region over a period of 50 years. They will inflict far greater damage than the 8 October 2005 earthquake in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan.
Roger Bilham who has been working in quake-affected areas of Pakistan for the past two months, said that a huge amount of energy was stored in the fault line in the Kashmir region, but it was unevenly distributed, and this may trigger massive earthquakes.
"This meant that when (the tectonic plates) do go, they are very likely to go with a very large earthquake. Our study basically showed that there were four places that could have a magnitude 8.2 or more. It also showed that the Kashmir region could have something like a magnitude eight earthquake," Bilham said. Bilham said the 8 October cataclysmic quake occurred at the very end of the Himalayan tectonics, and going by Kashmir's history, there may well be a sequence of earthquakes spread over the next 50 years
"What we know is that it ruptured a 100km length of the Kashmir region, diagonally from the north-west to the south-east. Also, it ruptured from very close to the surface down to a depth of 30to 40km. One can get an idea of the extent of the havoc wreaked below the surface by the fact that the Himalayas slipped about three to four meters within about 15 seconds," he said.
He said that data showed that the mountains behind Muzaffarabad, around the epicenter, actually rose by about a meter, releasing an energy equivalent of a 30-megaton nuclear explosion. These figures, juxtaposed with historical data, painted a worrying picture, as the last major series of earthquakes recorded in Kashmir started in 1501, culminating in a major jolt in 1555.
"Although these records are not very accurate or detailed, I think we have enough to use the 1501 and the 1555 earthquakes as a template for the region. I would think that the present earthquake would be equivalent to the one in 1501 which means that there exists a possibility of another major slip in Kashmir's future," he added.
The nature of aftershocks the region experienced after the quake was also a matter of concern, he further said. The north-west tip of the rupture which extended to "the mountains behind Muzaffarabad" had recorded the expected number of aftershocks, he said, while the south-eastern tip of the rupture, which extends to the plains below the Himalayas, had shown "a surprising and worrying calm".
"This means that pressure is building up around the south-eastern tip. In other words, it means that should the fault line slip in the south-east, the shockwave is very likely to travel towards the plains of Punjab - possibly extending down to the historic city of Lahore," he said.
The only way out, he said, was for the PoK Government to put together a massive reconstruction exercise across the quake zone. Pakistan, he said, must ensure that proper earthquake proof structures are erected
"The Government needs to ensure that whatever new structures are built are able to withstand the next earthquake, the next one and the next one. From what we know of Kashmir's history, there may well be a sequence of earthquakes spread over the next 50 years. Of course 50 years may sound an awfully long time to a politician, but it is the perfect length of time to get the structure of the buildings right," he further said.