Delhi quake drill good example for other high-risk cities to follow – UN envoy

Margareta Wahlström, Assistant Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

16 February 2012 – The head of the United Nations office for disaster risk reduction has welcomed the mass earthquake drill organized by Indian authorities in Delhi yesterday and encouraged all high seismic cities to follow the city’s example to better prepare for possible catastrophes.

More than 40,000 people took part in the drill to check the alertness and preparedness of the 16.7 million people living in the Indian capital in the event of 7.2-magnitude quake, according to a news release issued by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).

Margareta Wahlström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, welcomed the drill, which was the culmination of the country’s first-ever State-wide earthquake preparedness exercise which got underway last December.

“I encourage all high risk seismic cities to follow the example of Delhi and to be better prepared against any catastrophic event,” she stated.

“Mock drills are a good opportunity to identify gaps in preparedness planning. More than 370 million people live in earthquake-prone cities around the world and there are mass casualties on a regular basis from earthquakes.”

UNISDR noted that experts have long questioned Delhi’s ability to withstand a major earthquake due to lack of safety standards, illegal buildings and poor enforcement of building codes. The city is classified as a high-risk seismic zone, ranking four on a five-point scale by the United States Geological Survey.

The Delhi government estimates that nine out of every 10 buildings in the city are at risk of moderate or significant quake damage. Every year, tens of thousands of housing units are built without any earthquake safety checks, stated UNISDR.

Yesterday’s two-hour disaster simulation, organized by the National Disaster Management Authority and the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, was conducted across hundreds of schools, hospitals, cinemas, resident welfare associations, government office buildings, markets, and petrol pumps.

A total of 276 “deaths” were enacted, while around 828 people were assumed to have suffered major injuries, and 1,897 others suffered minor injuries.

The exercise brought together the police, fire officials, ambulances and volunteers. Six metro stations were closed for over 30 minutes and road traffic in many areas of the city was diverted as part of the exercise.


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