Multiple earthquakes as strong as magnitude 8 on the Richter scale may hit the Himalayan region around north India and northeast India at any time, disaster management experts of the Union home ministry have warned.
The National Institute of Disaster Management said that the recent earthquakes that hit the region, including the 6.7 magnitude earthquake that struck Manipur on 4 January, have caused the re-rupture of the tectonic plates, thus increasing the likelihood of more earthquakes, The Times of India reported.
The disaster could hit not only the states which fall under the severe seismic Zone V, but also Delhi, which is classified under the less severe seismic Zone IV, NIDM director Santosh Kumar told the newspaper.
"The entire Himalayan Region is considered to be vulnerable to high intensity earthquakes of a magnitude exceeding 8.0 on the Richter Scale, and in a relatively short span of about 50 years, four such major earthquakes have occurred in the region," the National Institute of Disaster Management had said in its disaster risk profile .
What is further likely to turn the quakes into major disasters is the construction of buildings without proper regulatory mechanisms.
"India has highly populous cities and the constructions in these cities are predominantly not earthquake resistant. Regulatory mechanisms are weak, thus any earthquake striking in one of these cities would turn into a major disaster," the experts said.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has blamed rapid urbanisation and economic development for the increase in earthquake risk in the north-east, according to The Indian Express.
Several studies have already warned of the "big one" looming in the region, as the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April had not released all of the seismic energy locked under the Himalayan thrust fault. READ: India, Nepal at Risk of Another Major Earthquake, Say Studies
In fact, the Nepal earthquake had pushed some of the seismic energy towards the west towards India, thus increasing the probability of a big earthquake hitting the region, according to studies published in the Science and Nature Geo Science journals last year.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research had also published a study last year warning of a major earthquake in Uttarakhand, citing the expansion of the seismic gap in the region. READ: Uttarakhand May Witness Nepal-Like Deadly Earthquake, Warn Geologists
"The (approximately) 700-km-long 'central seismic gap' is the most prominent segment of the Himalayan front not to have ruptured in a major earthquake during the last 200-500 years. This prolonged seismic quiescence has led to the proposition that this region, with a population of more than 10 million, is overdue for a great earthquake," the study had said.