Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Are We Ready For An Earthquake?

Earthquakes are natural disasters that occur when stresses that have built up along fault lines are released.  The recent earthquake in Nepal with a magnitude of 7.8 should be a wake-up call for us in Jamaica in ensuring that all our government agencies with direct responsibilities for earthquake management and relief are fully resourced and are ready to respond in the event of an earthquake. Jamaica is located within fault lines which makes the island very vulnerable to earthquakes. The last major earthquake to hit Jamaica was the Kingston earthquake of 1907 which destroyed a significant portion of the city and killed approximately 1,000. An earthquake of 7 on the Ritcher Scale is considered major and is capable of widespread damage and death as seen in the cases of Haiti in 2010 and Nepal in 2015. While Jamaica’s infrastructure is arguably better than of Haiti and Nepal we should never become complacent and disregard the destructive nature of earthquakes.
With so many unplanned settlements in Jamaica including squatting and the building of homes alongside gully banks due mainly to the lack of affordable housing, Jamaica and Jamaicans are at an increased risk in the event of a major earthquake.
Unlike hurricanes, which most of the population have some experience with the majority of the Jamaican population has no such memory and or experience and this will undoubtedly create panic and hysteria in the event of a major earthquake. We need to know for example where are the gathering areas in Kingston in the event of a major earthquake.
Disturbingly, many of our schools are at particular risks since, in many instances, earthquake drills are not done or not done on a frequent basis to prepare students for what they should expect and what they should do in the event of a major earthquake.
Jamaica is surrounded by a number of geological faults. In Eastern Jamaica there is the Plantain Garden fault that runs into the Yallahs, Blue Mountain, Wagwater and Silver Hill faults which together control the tectonics of the Blue Mountains block.
Jamaica is influenced by the South Coast, Spur Tree and Montpelier and Newmarket faults in Western Jamaica. Clearly, now is the time to revisit our earthquake preparedness plans.
It is not a matter of if we will get a major earthquake it’s a matter of when. As a result we now need to learn from the lessons from those who have experienced such destructive and devastating tragedies.

Wayne Campbell