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Factor earthquakes into civil engineering projects —NASRDA

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By J.K. Obatala

IT is best to confer with mandated agencies, such as the National Space Research and Development Agency, NASRDA, before embarking on construction projects, in earthquake prone areas.

Twitter photo: Earthquake and tremor

This is the advice of NASRDA’s Director-General, Professor S.O Mohammed, in the wake of a recent tremor, which emanated from Mpape, Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

Speaking to Vanguard, in his Abuja office, Mohammed expressed hope that the mild tremor would prompt policy makers and project-planners to “pay more attention to geological detail.”

He said: “Nigeria is rather placid, geologically. But this is only in a comparative sense. While our country is not in the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ or the Rift Valley, it is by no means quake-free.”

Mohammed noted that NASRDA’s monitoring stations have recorded several quakes over the past decade—the most recent (before Mpape) occurring in 2017, at Kwoi, Kaduna State.

The director general said NASRDA analysts believe the Mpape tremor will remain minor—but urged residents not to panic, in case of renewed crustal motion. He advised further, that in the event of a future quake, especially a strong one, basic precautions, such as moving into an open space or parking away from any structure, be taken.

“Earthquakes occur, after stress builds up, along lines of fracture in slabs of crustal rock. When the stress is relieved, shockwaves radiate from these fault-lines. We experience such wave fronts as earthquakes and their main point of origin is called the epicenter,” Mohammed explained.

Mohammed averred that the Centre for Geodesy and Geodynamics (at Toro, Bauchi State) has a mandate to study earthquakes and has already begun collecting and analyzing data.

NASRDA’s continuing investigation is expected to yield clues that will help provide its scientists and engineers with answers to several important questions.

“One,” noted Dr. Halilu Ahmad Shaba, director of Strategic Space Applications, “is whether the slippage that produced the shockwaves was entirely natural—or human influenced”.

In a separate interview, Shaba said analysts are concerned, that a railway was routed through the area without first seeking any input from the Space Agency.

“It is possible,” he allowed, “that vibrations from the rail line could have caused—or contributed significantly to—the tremor”.

Other questions the data could help answer, he said, include determining if there is a fault line at the epicenter and, if so, “is the Mpape quake related to last year’s Kwoi disturbance”.

Shaba also allowed for the possibility, that rain and rock-blasting could have exacerbated pre-existing earthquake conditions.

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