Vol. 5 Num 212 Mon. December 27, 2004  
Front Page

Quake jolts country, 1 dies in sea surge

One four-year old boy was reported to have been killed in Bangladesh as a result of the massive earthquake that caused thousands to die in other parts of southern Asia.

He was travelling in a trawler off the coast of Barisal when the trawler capsized. The boy's brother is still missing.

The earthquake off the coast of Indonesia sent three aftershocks across Bangladesh cracking buildings and surging the water levels of rivers, lakes and ponds. However experts say that the relatively small damage and loss of life was because of Bangladesh's distance from the quake's epicentre.

The biggest of the tremors was recorded at Bangladesh's lone observatory in Chittagong at 7 am and measured 7.36 on the Richter scale and lasted for 42 seconds. It was 1019 kilometres away from the seismic centre. The second tremor was measured almost two hours later at 4.35 on the scale.

The centre of the tremor was measured in Indonesia at 8.9 making it the fifth biggest tremor in the last 100 years.

Barisal Death
Our Barisal correspondent reports that the family of four-year old Atiq who died was travelling as tourists from Kuakata to Fatrarchar. According to the manager of Holiday Homes Motel of Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, the boy's family, along with and some other tourists, had made private arrangements to travel by trawlers from Kuakata to Fatrarchar. One of the trawlers capsized near Taltala during the water swells caused by the earthquake.

Rescuers later recovered the body of the young boy. His parents were frantically looking for his brother Labin. All other passengers were safely rescued.

In Dhaka, the water of the Dhanmondi lake surged significantly.

"My duty was near the bridge of the lake at that time," said Md. Hafizur Rahman, a police constable who was stationed early in the morning near the Dhanmandi Banghabandhu museum. "All on a sudden I saw that there was big waves in the lake moving from one bank to another. I realised it must be an earthquake. It lasted for two hours".

Another witness told The Daily Star that she saw her house moving. "I just came back from morning walk and saw my house move from side to side. It lasted for 30 seconds," said Dilara Ahmed, a 50-year old housewife in Demra.

Many people woke up during the quake but had no idea what was happening. "I was woken up by the jolt and I thought I must be very sick or something. It took me sometime to realise that my whole room was shaking," said Rosie Rashid, a school teacher in Uttara.

Our JU correspondent adds that some establishments including the Al-Beruni hall of the Jahangirnagar University were jolted by the quake, causing panic among the resident students.

The sleeping students of the hall, which is already under threat of collapse due to lack of maintenance, came running out of their dormitories. The Al-Beruni hall developed some new cracks.

Our Chittagong office reports that the tremor the tenth in the city this year - cracked some old buildings and swelled water by 4 to 5 feet in the ponds and other water bodies. A total of 78 earthquakes have been recorded in Chittagong in the last three years

The public library and railway buildings in the port city which already had cracks due to past quakes widened following yesterday's jolt while the streets were suddenly full of panic-stricken people, police and witnesses said.

Later during the day, furniture and other valuables were moved from the public library at KC Dey road in the heart of the city as it was feared that the building might collapse, officials said.

Met office staffs said that sea became very rough and there was a fear of tidal waves.

Around Bangladesh
Our Comilla correspondent reports the water in the river Gumti convulsed for nearly two hours after the tremor with some waves temporarily submerging the chars.

Our Rangamati Correspondent said that the quake created big waves in the Kaptai lake. However there was no reported damage to the Kaptai hydropower dam.

Our corespondents from Sylhet, Khulna, Patuakhali, Natore, Naogaon, Chapainawabganj Manikganj, Brahman Baria, Gaibandha, Satkhira, Magura, Jessore, Gopalganj also reported that the quake lasted for six to 30 seconds and surged the water in the rivers, canals and ponds by a few feet.

Experts' views
Aftab Alam, a geologist and quake-specialist explained to The Daily Star why the water surged so significantly although the buildings were not affected very much.

"This quake mainly shook the ocean waters which is interconnected with the sub-soil water tables," Alam noted. "The hydrostatic pressure increased and that resulted in water surges in different water bodies across the country."

Mir Fazlul Karim, Director Geological Survey of Bangladesh considered Bangladesh lucky because it is located far away from the epicentre.

"This type of earthquake occurred in 1734 and created tsunami through out the coastal region of Bangladesh. There is geological evidence in the Chittagong Hill Tracts that tidal waves rose up to 20 feet above the ground level," Fazlul Karim said.

Samerandra Karmakar, acting director of the met office, also considers Bangladesh lucky despite the fact that the richter scale record was very high. "We are lucky because of the long distance from the epicentre," he noted.

He said that Bangladesh needs to have three more seismic stations in order to be able to ascertain more details about the quakes and its effect on the country.