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December 13, 2019

A wake-up call

An earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter Scale shook Yangon on 13 November, rattling residents.
On 28 November, a 5.4-magnitude quake, with epicenter 23 miles northeast of Thabeikkyin, jolted Mandalay Region and caused some damage to homes, schools, and pagodas.
The Sagaing Fault is a major tectonic structure that cuts through Myanmar, dividing the country into two halves. The western half moves north with the Indian plate, and the eastern half is attached to the Eurasian plate. The Sagaing Fault produced a major earthquake in November, 2012, in the Thabeikkyin area, 100 km north of Mandalay.
A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Bagan on August 24, 2016, and damaged almost 400 of the area’s 3,252 pagodas.
This year, several earthquakes have been reported across the country in November, which shows that the fault is active and poses seismic hazards, which could be triggered any time.
Earthquakes are unpredictable forces of nature and can strike anytime without warning.
People must be alerted to the risks of earthquakes although quakes are rare, unlike other natural disasters such as fires, floods, and storms, as experts have predicted that Myanmar is more likely to suffer from earthquakes than other natural disasters.
People living along the fault line should take these warnings seriously and make necessary preparations, like making their homes disaster-ready, and ensuring family members have the necessary information on how to respond when earthquakes strike.
The efforts of local governments to conduct earthquake drills and provide information about dealing with quakes are necessary and should be taken seriously.
It is not enough to simply educate people and spread awareness about earthquakes.
Local governments will have to take into consideration drills and scrutinize the seismic safety of buildings to limit the damage to infrastructure and buildings. Future developers should also take the seismic safety of buildings into account.
There is a growing concern that material standards and building codes are insufficient to protect against the damage from strong earthquakes.
Also, other issues that are not obviously related to earthquake preparedness, but will be huge obstacles to relief and recovery efforts — traffic congestion, shortage of medical facilities and personnel, and vulnerable communications infrastructure — must also be addressed more aggressively.
The time to act is now, before a catastrophic earthquake strikes.

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