Step up preparedness for emergencies


The Director of the Geological Survey Department (GSD), Mr John Agyei Duodu, has stressed the need for the country to step up its

preparedness in case of the occurrence of an earthquake.

That is because earthquakes were unpredictable, hence the need to prepare through sensitisation and mass education on what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

Mr Duodu was responding to questions posed by the Daily Graphic on earthquakes in the wake of rumours on Monday that an earthquake was going to hit the country.

“It has been a scare and it is very bad enough. But, then, we also have to do our homework; probably our education has not been far-reaching enough,” he said.

He said there was the need to step up education on the measures needed to be taken in the event of an earthquake and the formation of voluntary groups to handle emergencies, among other things.

“People should be able to know what to do before, during and after an earthquake,” he said.

Mr Duodu said the equipment used to monitor earthquakes or earth tremors was out of order.

“Meanwhile, even with a functional machine, one cannot predict when an earthquake will occur,” he added.

However, the machine or equipment was needed to monitor the earth’s movement to map out areas that were high-risk and medium-risk for the right information to help in preparations for emergencies, he said.

He described as unfortunate rumours of an imminent earthquake, adding that the information did not emanate from the department, nor did it know the source of the information.

Mr Duodu said earthquakes could occur unexpectedly, hence the need to prepare, and mentioned earthquake-prone areas as the coastal areas and the Akwapim Range, with the first earthquake to hit the country being recorded at Axim in 1636, while the other major one was at Nyanyano in 1939.

The Nyananyo one, he said, measured 6.5 on the Richter Scale.

He explained that between one and 4.9 on the Richter Scale was a tremor and five to 10 an earthquake.

Mr Duodu said immediate measures one could take were going under a bed or a table and standing in a doorway before moving out into an open space.

He called on the media to provide the platform for the GSD to educate the public on earthquakes.

Meanwhile, the Head of the Seismic Monitoring Unit of the Geological Survey Department has advised estate developers and prospective home owners to seek information on the suitability and safety of lands in the event of earthquakes before developing them.

In an interview with the Daily Graphic Sunday, Mr Sylvanus Ahulu said, “Identifying the geological formation under the ground will help the architects and structural engineers to design and build earthquake resistant structures.”

“Identifying earthquake active zones or fault zones will also facilitate the siting of important lifeline structures such as hospitals, schools and communication gadgets away from zones of high seismic risk.”

Monday’s earthquake scare and the recent earthquake in Haiti which resulted in a mass collapse of buildings and the death of thousands of people have raised concern over Ghana’s ability to mitigate the consequences of a possible earthquake.

Citing the Cedi House in Accra as an example, he explained that when work started, the contractors contacted the GSD to conduct a ‘foundation investigation’ at the site and the findings were that the present car park, the site initially proposed for the building, posed an earth threat so the design and site had to be shifted a bit.

He, however, indicated that the National Theatre, which was built with no such contribution from the GSD, had some cracks when the March 6, 1997 earth tremor, which measured 4.5 on the Ritcher Scale, occurred.

Presently, no law exists in Ghana that makes geological survey a requirement for putting up structures, thereby making the housing sector vulnerable in the event of an earthquake of high magnitude.

Historical records and repeated tremors experienced in Accra and its environs heightened the fear of the occurrence of a damaging earthquake in the country with Weija, Nyanyano, McCarthy Hill, Ho, and Akosombo, declared Ghana’s earthquake epicentres.

Mr Ahulu said in spite of the declaration, new and magnificent buildings continued to spring up in these areas with no recourse to the dangers such structures-posed to their inhabitants, especially when the developers did not conduct geological studies on “how secure such places could be.”

He said earthquake-prone areas in the “northern part of the country have not been identified yet” because of logistical constraints of the GSD.

He said even though earth movements occurred randomly in the country, they were only instrumentally felt or measured.

“It is through this that we are able to develop seismic hazard maps for the country which gives a fair idea of areas that could experience earthquakes or tremors,” he added.

He said a networked Ghana, monitored by seismograph, the device used to measure and record earth tremors would ensure that the GSD detected all active zones and ultimately developed a seismic hazard map for the country.