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A 5.7-earthquake struck Bhutan 2006
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A 5.5-earthquake struck Bhutan 2003
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A 5.7-earthquake struck Bhutan

February 14 and 15, 2006

Up in fright, rattled by an earthquake which struck around 6:55 am (Bhutan Standard Time) early morning on February 14, 2006. The tremour was the second to hit Bhutan this week.
Images: NASA

On February 11,2006, a slight tremour, measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale(see: Richter and Mercalli Scales) was felt in Trashigang and the neighbouring region with its epicenter located in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

The February 14's tremour, which lasted for about seven seconds, was described as one of 'moderate intensity' and measured 5.7 on the Richter scale.

The epicenter, the point on the surface of the earth vertically above the place of origin of the earthquake, was located at latitude 27.7 degree north and longitude 88.8 degree east in Sikkim, India, about 130 kilometres west of Thimphu, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in New Delhi.

While many Thimphu residents expressed concern over the event, the Standard and Quality Control Authority officials, who have been studying the seismic activity in the country, said that no damage to houses or property had been reported so far. "The tremour was mild and largely harmless," said one of the officials.

However, in Gangtok, Sikkim, and elsewhere, extensive damage and cracks in several buildings have been reported.

Sources reported that strong and sudden jerks were felt sending people out of their houses in panic.

The quality control officials explained that a stronger tremour was expected in Gangtok, and other areas as it was situated nearer to the epicenter. "Places which are closer to the epicenter will have more intensity than those located farther away," said one official, adding that the intensity was determined by certain aspects like damages, peoples' reaction, and change in ground conditions among others.

The officials added that this also explained the strong tremour experienced on March 26, 2003. Although of less magnitude in comparison, the 5.5 earthquake with its epicenter located at Gunitsawa in Bhutan-China border was of higher intensity.

Bhutan falls under zone V of the seismic zoning map of India, which is described as 'seismically very active'. A report published in the US in 2001 has predicted a major earthquake in the Himalayan region which was to occur 'very soon'.

Between 1937 to 1998 a total of 30 earthquakes have been recorded in Bhutan. Records with the department of geology and mines indicate that a 1941 earthquake, on January 21, was the most powerful, measuring 6.75 on the Richter scale.

Geologists with the department said that with no proper seismic stations in place, it was difficult to detect any seismic activities in the country.

Contributed by Karma Choden, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper, 2006
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A 5.5-earthquake struck Bhutan

March 26, 2003

An earthquake of moderate intensity rocked Bhutanese off their bed and houses. The tremor lasted for about 10 seconds. Except for reportedly new cracks in some houses, there was no report of loss of life or severe damage to property. The earthquake was a 5.5 temblor at the Richter scale (see: Richter and Mercalli Scales). The epicenter was located at latitude 27.49 degree north and longitude 89.27 degree east in around Gunitsawa in Bhutan-Tibet border.

In the early hours of March 26, 2003, nearly every family in Bhutan woke up in fright, rattled by an earthquake that measured between 5.1 and 5.5 on the Richter scale. Most people were still shaken long after the tremour had died.

Apart from the stories exchanged by school children, that included the excitement of dashing outdoors to wait for a dreaded second tremour, most people had an earthquake story to tell. The older generation even had vivid memories of past earthquakes although earthquakes have never caused major tragedies in Bhutan. Bhutanese astrologers have varied interpretations of earthquakes. And, as is the nature of oral societies, we hear a range of predictions related to earthquakes. Some of them are a little foreboding.

Superstitions aside, we have very good reasons to be alert. Bhutan has recorded 30 earthquakes in 65 years. Meteorologists warn us that Bhutan lies in a high-risk seismic zone. Statistics tell us that our region - Nepal and the nearby Indian states - has experienced a number of earthquakes that measured more than 8 on the Richter scale. There is every reason to believe that we might experience a similar tremour.

The Himalayas and the Tibetan Pleateau were formed and continued to be modified by the convergent collisions of two of the world's great continental tectonic plates, the Eurasian plate and the Indian-Australian plate. As a result of the collision that started more than 65 million years ago, the average elevation of the Tibetan Plateau in the intermountain valleys is approximately 4880 meters.
This article was contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2003


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