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An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves and eventually the earth shakes. If the earth shakes violently, the result is indeed, disastrous. Man may escape other kinds of calamity but if an earthquake occurs, there is no escape.
Earthquakes are one of the natural calamities of the earth. Its origin can be traced to the early days of earth’s formation. Since centuries it has been responsible for a lot of damage to living and non-living beings. For many centuries man didn’t know why earthquakes occur, how they occur and the extent of damage they could cause. It was then left to Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, to relate the phenomenon of earthquake to physical factors.
According to Aristotle, when the air compressed within the earth escapes, it shakes some part of the land. This emission is called volcanic activity that causes pressure & imbalance and finally results in producing earthquake waves in the surrounding areas. It was thus identified that volcanic activity is one of the reasons for earthquakes.
With a lot of research and experiments it has been found that there are many more factors responsible for earthquakes. Describing the Aristotle’s reasoning scientists found that the interior of the earth consists of hot liquids.
This liquid is continuously cooling at its surface. When its surface cools and contracts earth upon it is drawn downward it cracks in the process. When the water from a sea passes down through the crack and touches the hot liquid. It gives rise to a puff of steam. When the steam expands and dashes to come out, the earth violently gets shaken up. The steam under the earth finds an easy way out through a volcano. So, the land, which is full of volcanoes, is prone to frequent earthquakes.
But this doesn’t conclude that earthquake occurs only in volcano prime areas. To counter this, another theory describing the cause of earthquake, exists. This theory is termed as “elastic rebound theory”. Geologists explain that the land on the either side of a fault is gradually moving. Such faults prevail mostly near the mountain areas. When such faults get locked, a tension develops within the lands. When that tension crosses a certain threshold, the lands fracture from their weakest link and thereby spring back to their original shape, shaking up the entire land. This is the reason for calling this theory as “elastic rebound theory”.
Above two are the main reasons why we see earthquakes commonly occurring in either volcano prime areas and under the feet of mountains and hills. Hence China, Japan, Philippines, southern parts of the Himalayas, volcano prime parts of Europe and western parts of North and South America are prone to frequent earthquakes.
One of the most devastating earthquakes in history occurred on 23 January 1556 in the Shaanxi province, China that killed more than 830,000 people. Most of the population in the area at the time lived in yaodongs, artificial caves in loess cliffs, many of which collapsed during the fiasco with great loss of life.
In India, the earliest earthquake on record occurred on Dec 31, 1881 in Nicobar Islands. The magnitude of the earthquake was estimated to be 7.9. Since then India has witnessed 10 other quite significant earthquakes. The Latur earthquake is considered one of the most devastating earthquakes in India. It struck India on September 30, 1993. The main area affected was the Maharashtra State in Western India. The earthquake primarily affected the districts of Latur and Osmanabad. Total 52 villages were demolished and approximately 20,000 people died, whilst another 30,000 were injured. It measured 7.4 on the Richter scale.
Another such earthquake shook India on 26 January, 2001 that lasted for over 2 minutes. The epicenter was about 9 km south-southwest of the village of Chobari in Bhachau Taluka of Kutch District of Gujarat. The earthquake reached a magnitude of between 7.6 and 7.7. The quake killed around 20,000 people (including 18 in south eastern Pakistan), injured another 167,000 and destroyed nearly 400,000 homes.
Japan is a constant victim of earthquakes. So, the Japanese make houses of paper boards. India too is not altogether free from this natural calamity. Albeit in India, it is very few and far between. However, the people of India have also witnessed hazardous effects of such a disaster. Experiments are being done on various aspects related to earthquakes and people are hopeful that India will surely come up with a solution to tackle such a natural calamity.
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