Aerial Survey to Improve Govt’s Earthquake Predictions

By Thazin Hlaing 18 January 2018

YANGON — An aerial survey of the earthquake-prone region between Naypyitaw and Mandalay is set for March in an effort to help the government make better predictions about future strikes.

The Myanmar Earthquake Committee, Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, Land Records Department and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have teamed up for the project with the government’s approval.

The team will take aerial photos of the terrain to understand the geographical features of the Sagaing Fault.

Previously, earthquake risks were assessed using aerial photos downloaded from the internet. The Earthquake Committee hopes to make more precise predictions with the higher resolution photos the aerial survey will provide.

The Sagaing Fault is one of Myanmar’s major fault lines, stretching over 1,200 km and passing through populated cities including Mandalay, Yamethin, Pyinmana, the capital Naypyitaw, Taungoo and Bago before dropping off into the Gulf of Martaban.

The fault has been largely inactive for nearly 180 years in the area the aerial survey will cover, so the risks of a powerful earthquake are high, U Myo Thant of the Myanmar Earthquake Committee told The Irrawaddy.

The committee estimates that the Sagaing Fault is moving about 18 to 20 millimeters a year, numbers the aerial survey can confirm.

The Department of Meteorology and Hydrology has installed 29 seismometers along the Sagaing Fault and has one more to go, said U Myo Nanda Aung, of the department’s earthquake section in Yangon.

It has also installed 17 GPS devices from north to south, with one left to put in place.

“We’ve installed seismometers in townships that are easily accessible and close to the fault. We’ve also installed GPS devices to know the speed of seismic waves,” said U Myo Nanda Aung.

An earthquake measuring a magnitude 6 on the Richter Scale rocked Pyu Township in the central region of Bago on Jan. 12, followed by dozens of aftershocks including a 3.9 magnitude tremor the next day in Htantabin Township on the outskirts of Yangon, the country’s most populous city.

According to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, nearly 70 earthquakes hit Myanmar in 2017.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.