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30 Nov, 2018 17:11

‘Long overdue’: Scientists warn of impending 8.5-magnitude earthquake in Himalayas

‘Long overdue’: Scientists warn of impending 8.5-magnitude earthquake in Himalayas

Seismologists studying the Himalayas are growing increasingly agitated about the prospect of a massive earthquake hitting the mountainous region, saying that such an event is ‘overdue’ and will likely be ‘catastrophic.’

A new study from Indian researchers has concluded that the “enormous stacking up of strain in the region portends at least one earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or more in… the central Himalayas anytime in the future.”

The researchers closely examined existing databases and carried out investigations using local geological studies, Google Earth and Indian Space Agency satellite imagery to determine exactly when the last major seismic event took place and what the evidence was at present that a similar event would occur.

According to the team, the frontal thrust of the central Himalayas has remained seismically quiet for the past 600 to 700 years; too long by their standards. The Main Central (or Frontal) Thrust is defined as a broad zone which is several kilometers thick that contains many of the brittle fault lines within the greater Himalayan range superstructure, where many avalanches and seismic shifts occur.

“An earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or more is overdue in this part of the Himalayas, given the long-elapsed time,” team lead, seismologist CP Rajendran, told NDTV.

“Considering this potentially high seismic risk, this will be particularly catastrophic for a region marked by an ever-growing population and unhindered expansion of the built-up environment, to be contrasted with poor preparedness to meet this contingency.”

Scientists have long warned about the risk of a major seismic event hitting the Himalayan region, and consensus is growing that such an event will occur sooner rather than later.

“They are undeniably correct in concluding that, should an earthquake occur now, its magnitude could equal 8.5,” warned Roger Bilham, a US geophysicist at the University of Colorado.

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