Kolkata Officially Did Not Experience Quake On Monday, Thanks To The Seismographs
Officially, Kolkata did not experience quake on Monday. Yes, that’s what the seismographs in the Regional Meteorological Department in Calcutta, the biggest weather office in eastern India says.
It has one digital seismograph and one analogue machine.Officials said while the analogue machine was not working for about two weeks, the digital machine was stuttering for some time and stopped working altogether on Sunday.
So, when the seismic waves from Temenglong in Manipur, 600km away, raced to Calcutta and shook the city a little after 4.35am on Monday, the men on night duty in the Met department’s observatory – like many other Calcuttans – felt the jolt, but they had no readings to confirm that it was indeed an earthquake 😀
The Alipore Met office had to wait for nine minutes before they got to know from the website of Delhi’s National Centre of Seismology that there had been a quake with details about the Richter scale reading at the epicentre near Imphal and the depth of the origin of the temblor.
But as a result of the seismograph malfunction, even late on Monday, 18 hours after the earthquake, officials at IMD Calcutta had not been able to give simple but crucial information like how long the tremors had lasted in Calcutta or how long after originating in Manipur they had struck Calcutta.
“The digital seismograph in Calcutta has been giving trouble for about 15 days. It stopped working two days ago. A team from Delhi will soon visit the city and replace the data accumulation system,” said G. Suresh, a senior official of National Centre of Seismology in Delhi.
Officials at IMD Calcutta said they had tried in vain to fix the digital machine with technical assistance from Delhi over the phone.
“We hope to fix the digital seismograph soon. A technician from Delhi is also coming over to repair the analogue machine. We have to depend on Delhi to fix serious glitches in these machines,” saida scientist at IMD Calcutta.
With the two machines in Calcutta out of action, meteorologists here did not have even basic details about the quake. There was no initial confirmation that there had been a quake at all, forget about details of the onset and duration of the tremors.
Equally importantly, they had no idea just after the quake passed as to the intensity of the tremors and their potential to cause damage.
Senior Met officials said the Alipore office should have ensured that at least one of the machines was working.
“When Calcutta has two seismographs, it should ensure that at least one should be working all the time. Even if the quake had been of a higher intensity or closer to the city and had caused more damage, we would not have been able to give out even basic information, which is unacceptable,” said a senior official of the India Meteorological Department, Delhi.
Suresh, from the National Centre of Seismology, was unsure how long the analogue machine in Calcutta was out of order and pointed out that such seismographs had become obsolete and were being phased out at most centres. Simply because “modern systems are digital and automated”.
The data from 120 digital seismographs, 80 of them belonging to the central government and the rest to other agencies or institutes, is assimilated by a software at the National Centre of Seismology to come up with information regarding earthquakes.
Of the Centre’s 80 digital seismographs, nine, including Calcutta’s, was not working on Monday.
“But five seismographs around the epicentre is good enough to derive details about a quake and there were 21 functioning in the Northeast region. So, we got enough information about the tremors,” said Suresh.
The data acquisition system of the digital seismograph in Calcutta had become defunct and the entire system would be replaced by January 15, he added.
Till then, Calcutta – preening host to the gala Bengal Global Business Summit over the weekend – could remain out of the seismological map.
Source: The Telegraph
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