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Experts warn of massive quakes in Himalayas

Singapore, Dec 31: In what can have huge implications for countries like India, scientists have warned of massive earthquakes of the magnitude 8 to 8.5 on the Richter scale in the Himalayas, especially in areas
PTI December 31, 2012 12:18 IST
PTI
Singapore, Dec 31: In what can have huge implications for countries like India, scientists have warned of massive earthquakes of the magnitude 8 to 8.5 on the Richter scale in the Himalayas, especially in areas with their surface yet to be broken by a temblor.



A research team led by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore has discovered that powerful earthquakes have left clear ground scars in the central Himalayas. This ground-breaking discovery has huge implications for the area along the front of the Himalayan Mountains, given that the region has a population density similar to that of New York City, researchers said in a statement.

Paul Tapponnier, a leading neotectonics scientist, said that the existence of such devastating quakes in the past means that quakes of the same magnitude could happen again in the region in future, especially in areas which have yet to have their surface broken by a temblor.

The study showed that in 1255 and 1934, two great earthquakes ruptured the surface of the earth in the Himalayas. This runs contrary to what scientists previously thought.

Tapponnier said that by combining new high resolution imagery and state of the art dating techniques, they could show that the 1934 earthquake did indeed rupture the surface over a length of more than 150 km, essentially south of the part of the range that harbours Mount Everest.

This break formed along the main fault in Nepal that currently marks the boundary between the Indian and Asian tectonic plates - the Main Frontal Thrust fault.

Using radiocarbon dating of offset river sediments and collapsed hill-slope deposits, the researchers managed to separate several episodes of tectonic movement on this major fault and pin the dates of the two quakes, about seven centuries apart.

Massive earthquakes are not unknown in the Himalayas, as quakes in 1897, 1905, 1934 and 1950 all had magnitudes between 7.8 and 8.9 on the Richter scale, each causing tremendous damage. But they were previously thought not to have broken the earth's surface - classified as blind quakes - which are much more difficult to track.