Monday, December 3, 2007

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Case Study: Latur Earthquake of 1993

When and Where?

The Latur, India earthquake was the most destructive earthquake in 1993. It occurred on September 30, 1993. The main reason for its lethality was the fact that it occurred at 3:45 AM, while the entire area was indoors and asleep. The earthquake struck in Southeastern India, in the state of Maharashtra. The two districts which were decimated by the earthquake were the districts of Osmanabad and Latur. The coordinates of the earthquake’s epicenter were N18.07 and E76.62.( This was very close to Latur, and consequently, it suffered the most damage. The earthquake measured 6.45 on the richter scale, with its focal point 12 meters beneath the surface. Unlike the Latur earthquake, most earthquakes occur along fault lines, where two plates meet. (

What happened? What caused it to happen?

The Latur earthquake was one of a very rare type of earthquakes. It was what is referred to as a SCR, or a stable continental region earthquake. Most earthquakes are a result of interaction between two plates, whether they be sliding, colliding, or forming a subduction zone. (, in this instance, the cause is very complicated. The Latur earthquake was an intraplate earthquake, or it occurred in the middle of a plate, as opposed to a plate boundary. The earthquake’s epicenter was very far from any fault line. The cause of this earthquake is still in speculation. Some scientists claim that it was a result of the force released from the continuous crumpling of the Indian plate against the Eurasian plate. Others claim that it was a consequence of the pressure built up as a result of the reservoir construction on the river Terna. The theory which most scientists agree on is that the many leniaments, or mini faults within plates, in that region contributed to the build up of pressure and its consequent release.(

Who and what regions were affected? Why do people live in hazard prone regions?

An example of the stone houses commonly found in
that region at the time of the earthquake.

The Latur earthquake was tremendously destructive. More than 30, 000 lives were lost. The earthquake itself didn’t cause as much damage. Most of the people were living in houses made of stones on soft soil. The tiles of the roofs were generally constructed out of stone plates, which were used as a result of availability and cost effectiveness. The tremors caused these plates to literally bury the local populace without food, water, and sometimes even air. The liquefaction, which resulted from the earthquake, destroyed the foundations of the houses and caused them to crumble. More than 60% of the deaths were a result of this.( Liquefaction is the phenomenon that causes soft soil or sand to shake loose as a result of seismic activity.An example of liquefaction

The people affected were mainly of the Latur and Osmanabad region and of several neighboring districts. The region itself isn’t hazard prone. As mentioned earlier, it isn’t even in close proximity to a fault or a plate boundary. An SCR earthquake occurs only about once per 100,000 years, making its predictability close to zero.( According to scientists, it wasn’t even possible for an earthquake to strike this region, which is why there weren’t any monitoring stations in this region. However, to answer the general question, most people live in hazard prone regions for many reasons. Generally, it is a matter of livelihood. At other time, it is the case of ancestral heritage, or houses in hazard prone areas that are handed down, generation to generation. More often in LEDC’s, it is the simple fact that the people who live in hazarde prone regions cannot afford to move out to a less threatened region.(

What was the result? What are the effects of the hazard? How are effects different between LEDCs and MEDCs?

The remains of a 10,000 litre water tank

There were several short term and long term effects of the earthquakes. The most tragic effect was that around 30, 000 people died due to the primary and secondary hazards caused by the earthquake. The effects of this earthquake were accentuated, as the region had problems with structurally unsound buildings and the earthquake occurred at night while everyone was sleeping, giving the people less time to react.( Around 30,000 people died during the seismic shaking. The remaining 20,000 were wiped out by the liquefaction that has already been mentioned. The hardest hit villages were those of the Latur and Osmanabad districts. The long term effect was that the area has still not been able to completely recover from the calamity. The earthquake has left one good mark on India. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the Indian government diverted more funding into earthquake research. Also, more earthquake monitoring centers have now been made. (, India is an LEDC, it has taken a much longer period of time for the region to recover completely from the catastrophe. ( LEDCs, the recovery period is generally longer than in a MEDC. Also, the amount of deaths would have been lower as the engineering firms of an MEDC would have built the house foundations on bedrock, instead of having shallow foundations in soft soil. Finally, there would have been a host of building techniques in MEDC that would have cut the number of dead by two thirds, for example, the use of rubber shock absorbers and steel girders to prevent the snapping of columns and support structures.(

What is being done about it? Possible prevention methods? Were/are there any volunteer programs to help?

Relief work during the primary stages involved rescuing
people who had been trapped by the debris.

The time of the crisis has already past, but at that time, more than 300 relief projects were started to quickly alleviate the problem. Several villages were reconstructed by either private firms, or by the government. ( it has been previously mentioned, new earthquake monitoring and preparedness centers have been started in the region to educate the people on matters regarding earthquake safety and injury prevention. It is now government law in the state of Maharashtra that buildings be constructed with the designated earthquake proof materials and techniques, several of which have already been mentioned. Since it is not possible to prevent earthquakes, government funding has generally aimed at earthquake monitoring and injury prevention during earthquakes.( Although the districts of Latur and Osmanabad were given plenty of attention at the time of crisis, the relief was lifted too soon to guarantee the complete recovery of the region. This is why it took the region 6 years to completely recover. However, ironically, the earthquake memorial has generated more revenue for the city through tourism than its traditional markets. (

Though still scarred, Latur has mostly recovered from the earthquake.


Welcome to my natural hazards blog! Here I will be posting my case study on the Latur earthquake of 1993. Feel free to comment!