ISLAMABAD: While a string of recent seismic events has worried many across the region, it may seem that these frequent, yet gentle tremors may be more of a boon than a bane.

According to the country’s top meteorologist, small and frequent tremors are far less dangerous, as they help dissipate seismic energy which, if stored up for too long, manifests itself in the shape of massive quakes that can cause widespread damage.

“[Our country is located] on an earthquake-prone belt, but this does not mean that things are dangerous for Pakistan all the time,” DG Met Dr Ghulam Rasul told a press conference on Tuesday.

Flanked by National Disaster Management Authority Chairperson Maj-Gen Asghar Nawaz, Dr Rasul said that smaller tremors were beneficial to earthquake-prone regions as they released pent up seismic energy.

Met DG, NDMA chief hold press conference to allay people’s fears

However, he admitted that 2015 had been an active year as far as earthquakes were concerned.

A Met official told Dawn the media after the press conference that they received scores of calls from terrified citizens, asking whether the day of judgement was upon us, since there were so many earthquakes nowadays.

The NDMA chairperson echoed this view when he admitted that frequent tremors had frightened many people and the authorities had been receiving several queries in this regard.

“People are afraid after several earthquakes rocked Pakistan over the past two months, this is why we have convened this press conference; to provide information about [these] earthquakes and the preparations being made in this regard,” Maj-Gen Nawaz said.

He said that National Disaster Management Authority was working with stakeholders such as the Met Office, Nespak, the Pakistan Engineering Council, Suparco and the Quaid-i-Azam University to devise strategies to mitigate the impact of the earthquake.

“The epicentre of the recent earthquakes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Northern India is the Hindu Kush region of north-east Afghanistan, bordering Tajikistan,” the DG Met Office said.

Dr Rasul explained that earthquakes in this region are driven by collisions between the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

“This collision is due to the continuous northward movement of the Indian tectonic plate, which is gradually pushing under the Eurasian plate. The impact creates jerks and tremors mostly felt in regions south of the Hindu Kush mountains, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.”

Over the past 100 years, a majority of all quakes have measured below six, while only 10 percent of all seismic events have been stronger than that.

“There have been only three earthquakes stronger than 8; one of them was the October 26, 2015 quake,” Dr Rasul said, adding, “there were around 543 tremors across the country in 2011, but the number increased to 850 in 2015.”

However, despite lying on a fault line, the Met Office said that Islamabad was not threatened as it did not lie in an active seismic zone.

“Due to its geographic location, Pakistan has many fault lines running through it, but are not all of these are dangerous,” Dr Rasul said.

The Northern areas, the Makran coast, the Quetta valley, and Azad Kashmir are areas more prone to seismic activity, while less dangerous zones include Islamabad and the Salt Range, whereas central Punjab and upper Sindh are not at any serious risk from earthquakes.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2016