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Bhutan need not worry about a major earthquake disaster
Bhutan, said Dr. Motegi, had not experienced a major earthquake for centuries and the likelihood that it would do so was minimal.

Dr. Motegi's own study showed that the seismic active zone has shiftedto about 180 kilometers from the Himalayan foothills to the Shillong plateau which is now the new boundary between the Asian and the Indian sub-continent plates. "This means Bhutan is getting safer," he said.

Roger Bilham of the University of Colarado, leadauthor of the report, had concluded in his study that an earthquake of 8.1 to 8.3 magnitude would strike the 2000 kilometers seismically active front of the Himalayas "very soon" to relieve the seismic strain that has been building up along the contact points of the shifting Asian and Indian-sub continent plates, and also because "no" suche earthquakes had hit the area in about 500 years.

In an interview Dr. Motegi pointed out that, during the last 104 years, earthquakes recording more than 8 on the Richter scale had occurred along the foothills. In 1897, in northeast India, Shillong, one recorded 8.7. Another earthquake in 1905 has recorded 8.6 in the northwestern Himalayas. In 1934 Nepal was struck by an earthquake measuring 8.4 and, in 1950, eastern Arunachal Pradesh recorded one at 8.7.

Earthquakes along the Shillong plateau area, measuring 7.3 on an average, had also occurred six times over the past years. Dr. Motegi added that "very soon" could also mean millions of years in geological terms. The last two million years had been classified as the "latest" in geology. He argued that Bhutan was "safe because, with these numerous earthquakes, the build-up stress may have been already released. "And considering the main seismic zone that is 180 kilometers away, Bhutan and Tibet were in a safe zone". He said that the plate carrying India was gradually slipping under the Asian plate and that was apparently the cause for the rise of Himalayan Mountains and a source of seismic strain along the mountain range.

According to Dr.Motegi's study, the Shillong plateau was separated from the Indian sub-continent and was now floating between the Asian and Indian plates. Its foothill "fault" (displacement of rock layers in the earth's crust in response to stress) was gently dipping towards the north with its pointed edge coming towards Gelephu. "It's like cutting a cucumber with the sliced part moving away from the main body," he explained. He also quoted J.R.Kayal of the Geological Survey of India, who reported that the top boundary of the seismic zone was about 25 kilometers below the Shillong plateau which was moving towards the north western foothills of the Himalayas. "Currently, a seismic zone of 4.5 magnitude," he said, "was passing through Arunachal Pradesh, the Mikir hills, Shillong plateau, and moving towards Nepal and Pakistan."

Courtesy : Dr. Motegi

This article was contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper, 2001
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