Delhi tests disaster preparedness

Citywide drill has been mounted after local drill drew poor response from people

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | February 13, 2012



The Delhi disaster management authority (DDMA) along with the national disaster management authority (NDMA) is conducting a drill today to train Delhiites in minimising damage to person and property in the event of a disaster.

An announcement of an earthquake was made at the AIIMS Metro station at 11:30 am. People from civil defence, the Delhi police and other volunteers helped in evacuating people. All this was done smoothly as people had prior information about the drill. All civilians were evacuated and the civil defence volunteers posed as dummy patients. There were doctors to provide immediate treatment to the victims. All looked like a planned exercise, however, the truth is that disaster comes unannounced.

At V3S mall in Laxmi Nagar, the announcement wasn’t very clear. It led to a bit of initial confusion. Soon the mall administration was seen asking people to vacate the place. People here lazily moved out of the mall sporting a smile and making it apparent that they knew there wasn’t any real danger staring in their face. Later the MCD, the Delhi police and other activists stepped in. But there was some confusion about the place from where the ambulance was to pick up the injured.

Mass messaging (through SMSes) has been on since the last week to inform as many people as possible about the drill.

Today's exercise will be on facing an earthquake of the intensity of 7.9 on the Richter scale on the Delhi-Moradabad fault line at 11.30 in the morning. The likely epicentre, in such a case, would be 275 km east of Delhi near Moradabad at an approximate depth of 35 km. The quake could last upto 48 seconds. The entire north of the country and some northwestern states will feel the tremors and the aftershocks. The hypothetical earthquake also occurs on a rainy day while the there is a bitter chill in the city. Imagining a worst-case scenario, disaster management authorities have  factored in the disruption of the Metro in the exercise. CNG stations will be leaking flammable gases and highrises and flyovers will have either crashed or would be teetering on the verge of crashing.

The authorities hope that the drill will raise the disaster-preparedness of the city. Vijay Dev, secretary, DDMA and divisional commissioner, said, “We want citizens to be aware so that they can contribute in saving lives of people during such disaster situations.” He added, “During this drill there will be independent observers from Indian army who will observe and would later give reports on response of all departments.”

The drill will be held across nine districts in the Capital at selected vulnerable spots such as malls, schools, bridges, markets colleges, metro stations, cinema halls, government office buildings, Chattarpur metro station, Khan Market metro station, Kashmiri gate metro station, Tilak Nagar, PVR cinema Saket, Kalkaji market, Liberty cinema hall, Inderlok metro station, Karkardooma metro station, V3S mall. CNG stations, housing colonies, Max Balaji hospital and many more spots will also be covered. The traffic will be affected at these locations.

All the government agencies like MTNL, Delhi fire services, Delhi police and traffic, Delhi Jal board, MCD, DTC have been roped in for the drill.

Sujata Saunik, joint secretary of NDMA said that there is a need for safe buildings to ensure less damage during disasters. She said, “Earthquakes do not kill but unsafe buildings do. NDMA had suggested RBI to ensure that all infrastructure loans that are cleared from banks should be allowed only when buildings are earthquake proof. It has been accepted. At the same time it is also important for people to ensure that they are buying safe homes and are making their homes retro fitted to ensure that building do not collapse when such disaster occurs. This exercise will help in creating awareness.”

Divisional commisioner of east district Rajesh Mishra said efficiency support functionaries will be present to respond during the drill. He added that few clusters like Geeta Colony has been identified which fall under high risk areas, and that working with them will help save lives.

Delhi comes under seismic zone 4 which is a high-risk classification and an earthquake of this magnitude could cause colossal damage. The disaster management authorities, therefore, had moved to raise awareness and preparedness in the city though localised drills over the last month but had faced poor response from Delhites. So, the drill has been mounted to cover stretches of the city and awareness about it is being drummed up through daily SMSes.

With inputs from Tanvi Nalin.

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