No ‘Significant Losses’ Expected from M7.5 Hindu Kush Quake: AIR Analysis

October 27, 2015

According to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide the epicenter the magnitude 7.5 earthquake that struck northeastern Afghanistan yesterday was located in the Hindu Kush mountain range, 45 km (28 miles) north of `Alaqahdari-ye Kiran wa Munjan, Afghanistan, and 254 km (158 miles) north-northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan.

The quake was deep underground at a depth of 213 km (130 miles) and was felt in Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The report said, however, that due to the “exceedingly low penetration of insurance in the affected region, AIR does not expect significant insured losses from this event.”

Dr. Gerald Galgana, scientist at AIR Worldwide, explained: “The M7.5 event in Hindu Kush occurred in a seismically active plate boundary zone situated in the northern part of the Indian Plate at a depth of 213 km, according to the USGS.

“This region is a curved arc characterized by intense mountain building and deep seismic events along the northwestern part of the Tibetan Plateau, along the Pamir-Hindu Kush mountains of Tajikistan and northeastern Afghanistan. The immediate epicentral region is situated at the western part of this collision zone, where the crust is unusually thick from the superposition and excessive deformation of rocks from different converging tectonic affinities.”

He also pointed out that “historically the epicentral area is seismically most active along the entire Indian – Eurasian plate collision zone, especially at increased depth. This earthquake occurred at the location where large historic earthquakes of magnitude 7 to 7.5 have repeatedly occurred in the last 100 years with 5 earthquakes of magnitude larger than 7.3 within a radius of about 60 km and in the depth range of 200 to 240 km.”

Dr. Galgana described the region as a “hotbed of seismogenic source of large earthquakes at this unusual depth along the boundary of two continental plates. The earthquake may be classified as an intermediate depth earthquake, resulting from the interaction of these two major plates. The exact cause of this type of deep earthquake, however, is still not well understood. Other large earthquakes that have occurred along the Indian-Eurasian plate collision zone such as the 1905 M7.5 Kangra earthquake, the 1934 M8.1 Bihar earthquake, and most recently, the 2005 M7.6 Kashmir earthquake, were all shallow.”

According to AIR, the earthquake occurred in the mountainous, rural province of Badakhshan in northeastern, Afghanistan, and was felt in Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. “Although the overall economic loss is not expected to be high, the earthquake caused devastating damage to the epicentral regions due to the poor construction of local buildings,” AIR added.

So far AIR said the “full scope of the damage is not yet clear because the worst affected areas are not easily accessible. The majority of the local building stock is mud brick, or adobe, one of most vulnerable building construction types. Other popular building construction types in the region include unreinforced masonry and some reinforced concrete. Much of the building stock in the affected region is not built to standard because of a lack of code enforcement and code compliance practices.

“The USGS issued a yellow alert for estimated economic losses, meaning that some damage is possible and economic losses are expected to be less than one percent of Afghanistan’s GDP. The Inspector General of Police in Srinagar, India, stated that a highway overpass had been cracked and that bridges and buildings had also been damaged by the earthquake.

“The USGS issued an orange alert level for shaking-related fatalities. Significant casualties are likely, and the disaster is potentially widespread. Past events with this alert level have required a regional or national level response. The death tolls in Afghanistan and Pakistan currently stand at 50 and 180, respectively, but these figures are expected to rise.

Source: AIR Wordldwide.

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