The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shivers go down Delhi spine

New Delhi, Oct. 8: Residents of highrises mushrooming in the capital’s sprawling suburbs woke up to a collapse scare this morning.

“The whole building was swaying from one side to the other. I was told by my neighbours not to use the stairs because they are the weak spots in the building. I went down anyway,” said Madhu Gupta, a resident of Gurgaon, stacked with multi-storeyed buildings.

The panic spread from Gurgaon to Rohini, Dwarka, Mayur Vihar, Pitampura and Paschim Vihar ' neighbourhoods that have seen a construction boom even as Delhi awaits implementation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s unified building bye-laws with earthquake-proof guidelines.

The bye-laws, aimed at removing red tape and eliminating the nexus between MCD officials and property dealers, will give private empanelled architects the authority to sanction building plans and issue completion certificates. The architect will be penalised if a building is damaged.

In Mayur Vihar, the eastern suburb prone to tremors because of alluvial soil on the Yamuna riverbed, residents ran out of their homes and gathered in huge crowds, waiting for the danger to pass.

“I was having my breakfast and I just felt the ground rumble. The doors were rattling and chairs were moving. I saw my neighbours go down and followed. I refused to take the lift. If something happened, we would be dead. I took the stairs,” said Ravi Mohan, an advertising professional who lives in a seventh-floor flat.

The Indian Meteorological Department’s seismo-control room at Mausam Bhawan was flooded with calls from panicking Delhiites.

M.K. Mohanty, president of the Delhi Citizens’ Front ' an association of 600 resident welfare associations in Delhi ' said: “There was no problem in Rohini where I live. However, as we live in multi-storeyed apartments, people just got very scared, especially the children who were at home as it was a Saturday. As part of the Delhi Citizens’ Front, we have a disaster management group and we hold seminars for earthquake awareness. If it had happened at night, it would have been worse.”

Over four years after the devastating earthquake in Bhuj, the Delhi government’s disaster mitigation plans have stayed on paper.

According to experts, the Delhi-Hardwar ridge on which the capital is located is an important tectonic block.

Although Delhi is categorised as having a fairly high probability of earthquake shocks measuring 5 to 6 on the Richter Scale, low probability of shocks of 6 to 7 and occasional occurrences of shocks of 7 to 8 is not ruled out.

The high density of houses and poor construction increases the risk.

Abhishek Singh, a banker who lives in Dwarka in southwest Delhi, said: “Suddenly, the building started rocking. The books on the shelf in my drawing room started falling down. I decided to go out'. Our flat is a private one and we can’t take a risk.”

On the plan to introduce the new building bye-laws, Mohanty said: “These kind of measures will help. The junior engineers who pass these plans are so corrupt. They encourage illegal construction.”

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