JOURNAL OF DEFENCE STUDIES

Sikkim Earthquake: Perils of Poor Preparedness

Nina Khanna is a research scholar in MRIU, Faridabad.
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  • January 2012
    Volume: 
    6
    Issue: 
    1
    Focus

    An earthquake of the magnitude 6.9 on the Richter scale occurred in Sikkim and the neighbouring states of West Bengal, Assam, and Bihar on September 18, 2011. The tremors were felt in five other Indian states, besides affecting neighbouring Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and China. Although few lives were lost (111 in all) despite the high magnitude of the quake, primarily because its epicentre was in the remote and thinly-populated area of Mangan, significant lessons were learnt in its aftermath. One important lesson related to the difficulty of accessing the disaster-affected area because of numerous landslides, bad weather. The calamity once again highlighted the crucial role of the armed forces in the post-disaster relief operations. The armed forces located within Sikkim played a significant role in rescue and immediate relief. Although affected themselves, they were the first to respond and provided the succour to the victims within the crucial “golden hours”, when other no other first responders of the state got activated. The authors, who visited the disaster areas and interacted with the community and the officials, undertook a research study of the earthquake and make several recommendations/suggestions in the article, which are likely to help the state in being better prepared for the management of such disasters in future. Some of the suggestions are targeted at the armed forces as well, as they are equally vulnerable to earthquake disasters in Zone V areas.

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