Of all natural calamities the earthquake is the most disastrous, and strikes great terror in the hearts of its victims. No other natural calamity causes so much damage and destruction over so extensive an area in so short a time.
The sudden and violent shaking of a part of the earth’s surface is called an earthquake. A severe earthquake causes tremors of great intensity lasting for a few minutes, producing a thundering sound. The destructive power of a severe earthquake may be 10,000 times greater than that of the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Earthquakes are caused by the cracking of rocks in the earth’s crust on account of some internal pressure or force. When the surface rocks crack, there are waves of vibrations which violently shake the earth.
The site of an earthquake is a terrifying sight and the experience, a horrifying one. With the rumblings of the first tremor, utensils and other household things begin to rattle and give warning of impending danger. Terror-stricken people rush out of their houses and shelters in great panic, screaming piteously for someone to save their lives. Houses, dams and other structures are rocked and tumble down like houses of cards. Those who are not alert and are caught unaware are crushed under flaking structures or buried alive under the debris. Cattle and other pets tied with ropes are crushed to death before they can be set free.
Roads and bridges crack, railway lines are twisted and uprooted. Water pipes, electric lines and gas mains are damaged. Fire and floods are the other two great dangers accompanying a severe earthquake because of the damage caused to electric lines or gas mains and because of a breach in dams. Sometimes there may be volcanic eruptions with red-hot lava gushing out, totally destroying villages and cities in the way. In such cases thousands, or sometimes lakhs, of people perish. There is colossal loos of life and property.
Earthquakes often alter the features of the earth. Mountains come up in place of roaring seas. And seas emerge in place of mountains. Islands are totally submerged under water and new islands rise up. High tidal waves sweep over coastal areas and new islands rise up. High tidal waves sweep over coastal areas and make a watery grave of the prosperous, humming cities. Rivers change their course and turn deserts into fertile lands or fertile lands into dreary deserts.
Earthquakes usually come without any prior notice or signal and cannot be predicted. Nor is there any way to prevent them. in spite of all the scientific inventions and discoveries, man continues to be helpless in the face of this natural disaster.