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Volunteers for Disaster Response Manipur sadly condones the casualties including the death of many in Manipur

IMPHAL: The Volunteers for Disaster Response Manipur (VDRM) sadly condones the casualties including the death of many in Manipur as a result of the sudden earthquake of 6.8 magnitudes on the Richter scale in the early morning hours of today, which reportedly had an epicentre at Longmai (Noney) Village of Tamenglong District in Manipur. According to news and other unofficial reports, the damage of the earthquake has been extensive, and local hospitals and health centres are presently flooded with the injured. The structural damages to the newly constructed historic Nupi Keithel complex in Imphal, as well as the Bishenpur Market of Bishenpur District have resulted in a chaotic response from the government of Manipur, and both markets are closed indefinitely. The Minuthong Bridge was abruptly closed to vehicular traffic this morning due to the discovery of new cracks resulting in disruption to normal movement of vehicles and movement along to Imphal to Ukhrul Highway. Collapse and damage of houses have been reported from various parts of Manipur including Longmai Village and the Manipur Valley areas.

The location of the epicentre is extremely significant as Longmai is situated along the Jiribam to Tupul rail line of the Trans-Asian Railway that is being constructed. Heavy equipment movement, massive earth digging works, tunnel construction and preparations for the building of a tall railway bridge has been underway in the Longmai area for many months.

Despite the lessons learnt from the Himalayan Earthquake in April 2015 that led to a great humanitarian and economic disaster in Nepal, the government of Manipur seems to have been caught unprepared for this disaster. The Indo-Myanmar region including the Indian North-eastern region has long been recognised as a highly seismic zone. Manipur experiences earthquakes of various intensities on a daily basis, according to reliable scientific studies.

It is most disastrous that newly constructed reinforced infrastructure such as the Nupi Keithel complex in Imphal, executed by the state at great public expense has been now revealed to be vulnerable to damage by an earthquake of relatively low intensity compared to the Nepal event of 2015. The responsible agencies that executed these constructions must be held accountable and concerned executive officers brought to task. The floods of Manipur in 2015 had already witnessed the collapse of state constructed dams and bridges. Yet, the present government seems to be going about its work in a lackadaisical and irresponsible manner.

The Manipur Earthquake of 2016 is to be seen as a preview to many more disasters to come in our region. Large infrastructure development activities in Manipur must be approached with great caution and preparedness; something the government seems to be steamrolling throwing all caution to the winds. The people of Manipur have suffered enough for many decades without the additional grave dangers of ‘development disasters’.

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