Lurking under Bangladesh: The next great earthquake?

Jul 14, 2011

After the recent great quakes that have swept away entire coastlines and cities in Japan, Haiti and Sumatra, scientists are now looking hard at the nation that may suffer the gravest threat of all: Bangladesh. A new documentary from the Earth Institute follows seismologists as they trace signs of deeply buried active faults, past movements of the earth, and sudden, catastrophic river-course changes.

With more than 160 million people, is the most crowded place on earth, and one of the poorest–and it is growing fast. It sits on the world’s largest river delta, close to sea level, which exposes it to tsunamis and the possibility of rivers jumping their banks in the event of earthquake. And, it is furiously putting up bridges and multistory buildings that increase its vulnerability. Scientists have come to recognize that it sits at the juncture of several active tectonic plate boundaries–including the tail end of the one that caused the 2004 tsunami that killed over 200,000 people, 1,300 miles south. Syed Humayun Akhter, a seismologist at the Dhaka University Earth Observatory, warns that an near the crowded capital could dwarf other modern tragedies.


 
This year saw the start of a five-year, $5 million project to chart the hazards, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for International Research and Education program. Led by seismologists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in conjunction with Dhaka University, the team includes specialists from Vanderbilt University, the University of Minnesota and Queens College, and researchers in Germany, Italy and India. The scientists have been upgrading a network of seismometers that registers tiny tremors far below. This allows them to better map active faults buried under as much as 12 miles of sand and mud laid down by the mighty rivers that drain the Himalayas. They are also drilling some 250 wells near riverbeds to take sediment samples. These, they hope, will reveal the scope and timing of past earthquakes and river-course shifts that may have wiped out large swaths of countryside–though at times when population and infrastructure were far less dense. The goal is to give Bangladeshi scientists and leaders the tools they need to understand, and minimize, the risks.
 
“Like the great delta on which Bangladesh is confined, we find ourselves at a strategic confluence between science, natural hazard engineering and international relations,” says Leonardo Seeber, a Lamont seismologist working on the project. This month, Lamont seismologist Michael Steckler, the project’s lead investigator, was in Washington to help launch a new program run jointly by NSF and the U.S. Agency for International Development designed to advance such collaborations with developing countries. “This partnership will help particularly with the application of science, technology and innovation to accelerate global development, with huge benefits for industrialized and developing countries alike,” said John P. Holdern, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, speaking at the event.

Explore further: Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

More information: www.banglapire.org/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Vitamin D levels, prostate cancer not linked

Feb 14, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a detailed review, funded by Cancer Research UK, scientists looked at all the available evidence and found there was no link between the amount of vitamin D in men’s blood and the ...

FDA announces new limits on high-dose simvastatin (Zocor)

Jun 09, 2011

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced new limitations to the use of high-dose simvastatin, due to the increased risk of muscle pain and weakness (myopathy) and in rare cases, kidney damage and ...

Enzyme enhances, erases long-term memories in rats

Mar 04, 2011

 (PhysOrg.com) -- Even long after it is formed, a memory in rats can be enhanced or erased by increasing or decreasing the activity of a brain enzyme, say researchers supported, in part, by the National ...

Recommended for you

Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

3 hours ago

At least six Nepalese climbing guides have been killed and six others are missing after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest peak, officials ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

17 hours ago

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

There's something ancient in the icebox

17 hours ago

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Image: Grand Canyon geology lessons on view

Apr 17, 2014

The Grand Canyon in northern Arizona is a favorite for astronauts shooting photos from the International Space Station, as well as one of the best-known tourist attractions in the world. The steep walls of ...

First radar vision for Copernicus

Apr 17, 2014

Launched on 3 April, ESA's Sentinel-1A satellite has already delivered its first radar images of Earth. They offer a tantalising glimpse of the kind of operational imagery that this new mission will provide ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

At least six Nepalese climbing guides have been killed and six others are missing after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest peak, officials ...

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...