1966-2016: 50 years since the Tashkent Earthquake

Apr 30, 2016

Exactly 50 years ago, on April 26, 1966, at 5:23 am local time, a devastating earthquake occurred in Tashkent leaving homeless more than 300 thousand people out of 1.5 million of Tashkent residents. The capital was completely reconstructed over three and a half years. Entire residential areas have been erected in the suburbs of the city; older residential quarters in the centre of damaged Tashkent have been newly built up; new satellite-town Sputnik has emerged. Altogether, more than 1 million square meters of housing, schools, social, cultural, and administrative facilities have been built at that time.

Today, Tashkent is a city with modern architecture filled with an assortment of design ideas and engineering solutions where the crucial role is assigned to safety issues. It covers both structural stability and compliance with relevant rules and standards, and most importantly – ongoing work with population. The Government of Uzbekistan pays special attention to protection of population from emergencies and disaster risk reduction. The Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Republic of Uzbekistan with the support of UNDP in Uzbekistan acts as the initiator of large-scale events aimed at raising population awareness on Dos and Don’ts before, during and after such natural disasters as earthquakes, landslides, floods.

We are actively involved in raising population awareness on dos and don’ts during earthquake related emergencies. For instance, from 19 to 20 April this year, we have arranged a series of demonstrative practical seminars in Akhangaran district, Tashkent region and in Yunusabad district, Tashkent. Target audience of these meetings were students of secondary schools and representatives of mahalla communities,” said Ulugbek Kodirov, Head of Department, Preparation of population and senior management of MES.

In the course of the events in schools, a scientific documentary film was demonstrated to the participants, as well as a number of presentations given by the specialists of MES and the Institute of Seismology of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan in which they provided detailed information about the nature of earthquakes, Dos and Don’ts before, during and after an earthquake. Short disaster simulations conducted jointly with Red Crescent Society of Uzbekistan helped students to enhance their first aid skills, demonstrate their knowledge of actions in non-standard situations gained in the Health and Safety lessons, and to take part in the creation of earthquake-resistant environment in the class.

“Thanks to simulation activities organized in our school today, we could demonstrate our knowledge of first aid treatment. Two of my classmates played a role of earthquake victims. One had a hand injury, the second – a leg injury. I have examined one of them and identified a tibia fracture; I was able to fix the fracture with help of two wood splints. Then we approached the aid station of the local hospital,” told Nozima Yulchieva, student of the secondary school #12 in Akhangaran district, Tashkent region.

In addition to the above issues, seminars involving chairpersons and members of mahalla communities have also included information about assessment of vulnerability and capacity of the population preparedness to earthquakes, prompt data collection and compilation in the event of emergencies within the area of mahallas.

Another joint event initiated on the eve of the anniversary date was the contest held from 14 to 20 April for the best knowledge of the Dos and Don'ts during an earthquake. Relevant information was placed on the website of MES and UNDP and sent to the users of local mobile service providers. Over 30 thousand people showed interest, 720 sent their answers, 351 among which turned out to be correct. 20 winners have been randomly drawn and received the top prize – a smartphone and the opportunity to visit the Earthquake Simulation Complex at the Institute of Civil Protection of MES Uzbekistan.

“It was a pleasant and unexpected surprise for me that I was picked as the contest winner. I wrote how I behave during an earthquake. It is an interesting topic to me because I think that everyone must be aware of these simple rules. Thanks to this contest I learned many new things – we went into a fascinating excursion to the Earthquake Museum, I could experience the power of earthquake shocks on a special equipment – simulator. It was an incredible experience that I won’t forget for long. Surely, I wish nobody to be under destroyed buildings and go through the horror of panic, but I definitely know now how to behave and what shall be avoided,” responded Zilola Mirzaeva, the contest winner.

Moreover, a training seminar involving representatives of local and foreign mass media took place on 22 April. Specialists of the Institute of Seismology of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan, State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Architecture and Construction, MES and a number of other agencies delivered a wide range of interesting and extensive presentations to journalists. They told about the nature of earthquakes, history of establishment of the Institute of Seismology in Uzbekistan, modern capacities of the building industry as a significant factor to ensure seismic stability of buildings, as well as about the activities currently implemented in Uzbekistan to raise the population preparedness to possible natural disasters.

Excursion to the Earthquake Museum covering a broad exposition of models of different buildings destroyed in 1966 combined with demonstration of the documentary film allowed mass media representatives to learn about this natural phenomenon in more detail, to take a dive into the thick of the time. Guests also became familiar with seismographs of various epochs, methods of seismic stability, what is a seismic loading and how earthquake intensity was measured at different times. However, the brightest impression was left by the excursion to the Simulation Complex designed as a living room where every visitor was able to experience the power of earthquake shocks with a magnitude of up to 9.0 and their aftereffects. At this point, knowledge of Dos and Don’ts during and after an earthquake gained through the seminar became very helpful.

Even in the event of a powerful earthquake, a building constructed in accordance with all norms and rules remains undamaged. Non-compliance with the building regulations that can lead to destruction of a building and non-compliance with safety rules can be lethal during shocks of any magnitude. Take the right position in a room and the risk of getting injured by the objects falling from shelves is minimal,” noted Samandar Hikmatullaev, Head of Chair, Institute of Civil Protection.

Holding these events on the eve of the memorable date allowed demonstrating the development level of seismology in the country as a science, which arouses today a great deal of interest among foreign specialists. This is also another reason to point yet again at the capacities of modern urban planning, explain to citizens and demonstrate clearly the importance of compliance with safety rules and Dos and Don’ts to reduce earthquake risks as significant essentials on the way toward sustainable development.

*Based on the materials of the UNDP in Uzbekistan and the Ministry of Emergency Situations joint Project ‘Strengthening Disaster Risk Management Capacities in Uzbekistan’

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