Dehradun, Apr 9: A major earthquake may strike Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Nepal any time soon as the hills of Uttarakhand are hit frequently by mild tremors, warned state’s Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre (DMMC). Earthquakes measuring more than eight on the Richter Scale may occur because “the central seismic gap of the Himalayan front, spanning Himachal Pradesh, Nepal and Uttarakhand, has not been ruptured in any major earthquake in the last 200-500 years”.

According to Piyush Rautela, Executive Director of DMMC, frequent mild earthquakes in the hills of Uttarakhand are a clear indication of a major quake. “Frequent mild earthquakes in the hills of Uttarakhand should not be dismissed as common occurrences but treated as pointers to a major earthquake which is long overdue in the central seismic gap of the Himalayan front spanning Himachal Pradesh, Nepal and Uttarakhand,” Rautela told news agency PTI.

Another reason which may lead to a major earthquake is the 700-km long seismic gap on the Himalayan front, which spans Uttarakhand, neighbouring Himachal Pradesh and Nepal, has not been ruptured in any major earthquake in the last 200-500 years. “This pent-up energy accumulated over more than 200 years has led to an apprehension among scientists that it could find an outlet in the form of a big earthquake in the Himalayan region, of which Uttarakhand is a part, in the near future,” he added.

When asked about the intensity of what scientists say ‘major earthquake’, Rautela said the earthquakes measuring more than eight on the Richter Scale are categorised as such. On being asked about the extent of damage by an earthquake of 8+ magnitude the DMMC ED said it was difficult to quantify. “But definitely the damage will be more in the thickly populated urban areas where there has been rapid and unplanned growth of population and infrastructure.”

There have been as many as 51 mild earthquakes in different parts Uttarakhand, especially the hill districts of Chamoli, Uttarkashi, Pithoragarh, Almora and Rudraprayag, since January 1, 2015, according to data available on the state MeT department’s website. “The mild earthquakes which hit the hills of Uttarakhand almost every month and are often dismissed as usual occurrences should better be treated as warning bells so that we could equip ourselves better to deal with a bigger disaster,” Rautela said.

“These earthquakes often measuring about 2.5-4.5 on the Richter Scale are reminder from the nature that we live in an area vulnerable to earthquakes and cannot afford to lower our guard.” He emphasised the importance of effective planning, preparedness and mitigation, underlining the “constraints in earthquake prediction”. The DMMC is an autonomous body working under the Uttarakhand government for protection of people and environment against any kind of disaster.