Bangladesh might be under the threat of a massive earthquake building up under its land. A team of scientists have made an appraisal of the possibility of the disaster, and concluded that it could affect around 140 million people in the region. Their paper is published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
The subduction zone
The cause of the dooming threat is at a point of a subduction zone of the Earth where two tectonic plates are thrusting against each other. This type of zones is associated with the world’s biggest recorded earthquakes, such as the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean and the 2011 one in Japan. Given that the subduction zone in Bangladesh appears to be under land as opposed to the known ones that are underneath the sea, the destruction that would result from it would be far greater.
Earthquake of up to magnitude 9 threatening Bangladesh
This subduction zone was known to exist by researchers from before. However, it was initially thought that the plate boundary was only sliding horizontally near to the surface such that it would not be considered a great danger; in fact, it has been linked with earthquakes that have occurred in the past which did not cause that much damage. Now, the new paper reveals that the movements are more dangerous because the plate juncture seems to be under much stress. The researchers include in their data a model that can be used to estimate the size of the earthquake (it might possibly be of a magnitude larger than 8.2, according to lead author, geophysicist Michael Steckler from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory).
According to the team, the stress between the plates has been accumulating for over 4 centuries, and the quake might even reach magnitude 9.
The zone in question is associated with the tectonic boundary behind the 2004 tsunami. Scientists believe that an enormous plate encompassing India and the majority of the Indian Ocean has been moving such that Asia’s position is being affected; this change would be happening over millions of years; this would also account for the Himalayas to have risen to the north, a phenomenon that is thought to be the cause of the 2015 Nepal earthquake. This collision and movements are said to affect Bangladesh, leading to a series of quakes in its vicinity.
It is to be noted that the authors say that their findings do not actually constitute a forecast of an upcoming earthquake; however, they do describe the threat as an “underappreciated hazard”. Furthermore, Steckler says that they cannot estimate the time at which it might happen; they are unsure as to whether it can happen now or in centuries from now. More research needs to be done.
Meanwhile, researchers in and around Bangladesh are persevering in assessing the threats looming over the country.