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A woman carries items found under the debris of her house destroyed by an earthquake in Ziarat, about 130 kilometres south of Quetta, Nov 2, 2008. — Photo by AP/File

QUETTA, May 31: Data generated by Global Positioning System (GPS) devices and other scientific equipment installed in different areas of Balochistan indicate that a powerful earthquake may hit Quetta and other areas in future due to fast accumulation of underground stresses.

Prof Dr Din Muhammad Kakar, a senior geologist at the Balochistan University, told journalists here on Thursday that his university’s geology department, civil engineering department of the NED university, Karachi, and Centre of Excellence of the Peshawar University had been collecting data from various equipment installed to measure the movement of soil.

“The GPS machines installed in Quetta, Chaman, Saranan, Surkhab, Pishin, Ziarat, Shahrag, Harnai, Loralai, Qila Saifullah, Muslim Bagh, Lakpass, Kalat and Sorab suggest that Koh-i-Suleman, Koh-i-Khirthar, Quetta and northern areas are moving southwards at the rate of about 8mm annually. This movement is serving to increase subsoil stresses.

“There are chances of an earthquake of 7.5 magnitude hitting Quetta in future because of increasing underground stresses and movement of mountainous areas to the south,” Prof Kakar remarked.

He recalled that thousands of people had died in the powerful earthquake that hit Quetta in 1935.

He said the British had planned and developed Quetta only for 100,000 people, but the city’s population had now crossed 2.5 million with many people living in multi-storey and high-rise buildings.

“No one bothers that multi-storey buildings are being built in a city where a powerful earthquake killed thousands of people in the past and razed the city to the ground,” he said, adding that this was a violation of the building control laws.

He said a tremor of 6.5 magnitude could easily demolish buildings in Quetta. A powerful earthquake and its aftershocks could also burst gas pipelines and trigger fires which might engulf the entire city.

Prof Kakar said the provincial capital lacked disaster management arrangements upon which it could fall back on in case of calamities.

He expressed dismay over what he called the stakeholders’ apathy towards construction of high-rise buildings in narrow and heavily-populated areas of the city in clear violation of the building control laws.

Prof Kakar added that Chaman, Harnai, Shahrag, Loralai, Nushki, Khuzdar and coastal areas of Makran might also be hit by a major earthquake.