[By Shideh] Today, on Monday 6/18/07 at nearly 6 p.m. (local time), a moderate earthquake (magnitude 5.5) shook Iran’s central desert. The epicenter was about 150 km south of Tehran. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsww/Quakes/us2007dtaw.php).
Fortunately, there are no reports of casualties and injuries, according to the state media and aid workers. I’m wondering if anyone in Tehran felt the earthquake, and if so, for how many seconds; if you felt the earthquake, please take a minute and answer the questions in the above USGS page, under the link for “Did you feel it.” To get a feel for the quantity and size of earthquakes in Iran in the past month, visit: http://www.iiees.ac.ir/EQSearch/(pg5qmi45uapc5s55jxooih32)/RecentEvent.aspx.
This earthquake seems to have frightened many Tehranians, according to a few news sources, as many left their homes for the fear of another earthquake. The questions that I want to address in this post are: do we need to be worried, what are the current efforts for seismic risk reduction in Tehran, and can we do anything to help?
Tehran is a seismically active region with 15 existing active faults around it and a history of more than 10 earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 7. Faults around Tehran are capable of producing earthquakes as large as 7.9. According to most studies, the probability of occurrence of a strong earthquake in the Tehran region within the next 10 years is approximately 70%. This is a high number which means: we should worry!
According to the IIEES, in the past no important counter-measures seem to have been considered to decrease the impacts of a potential earthquake in Tehran, but recently the government has carried out a disaster risk reduction program for the country. The IIEES has undertaken a number of studies on mitigation, preparedness, emergency response, etc., to make a clear picture of the current state of Tehran and to propose the necessary steps to fill the gaps. This study may take a while, but it seems we are going in the right direction.
Now, what can we, as normal Tehranians, do to help? We may not be able to afford to hire a civil engineer to seismic retrofit our homes. Even if we can afford it, we cannot stay home 24/7 with the fear of an earthquake, as no one else has a safe home. Even the hospitals and schools may need retrofit for that matter. We may not have enough time for the government to complete its ongoing studies and for it to start enforcing new construction related laws and perform risk mitigation techniques. There must be a way for the city agencies, the public, and the engineering community to unite and subsidize the cost of seismic retrofit at least for public buildings to start with. It seems to be a good approach to start with schools as most of us are more alarmed when it comes to the children’s safety.
Perhaps we can gather a group of individuals who are willing to volunteer and engineering firms who are willing to contribute towards making Tehran a seismically safer place, under an official organization or a non-profit. If every engineering firm contributes even a little, and the city agencies show a little support, with the help of volunteers and media, we can prevent a great tragedy and we will be thankful for it when the next big earthquake strikes Tehran. What are your thoughts on this?