Engineers discuss earthquakes

A cross-section of participants at the lecture

Dr. Paulina Amponsah of the National Data Centre of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission has said that the earthquakes Ghana continues to experience are caused by movement along fault lines, and are known as Intraplate Earthquakes.

She made this known when delivering a presentation on the history, causes and effects of earthquakes in Ghana, and suggested recommendations on how to prevent and reduce the risks associated with earthquakes in the country.

The programme was put together by the Ghana Institution of Engineering (GhIE) on Thursday 25th April, 2019 at the Engineers Centre, Roman Ridge, Accra, to discuss the recent earthquakes in Accra.

Giving the history of earthquakes in Ghana, Dr. Paulina Amponsah said: “Ghana is far away from the major earthquake zones of the world; however, the country is seismically active and therefore prone to earthquake disasters”.

She narrated that the first earthquake recorded in Ghana was in 1615, and the event was located in Elmina where a fortress was destroyed. In 1636, an earthquake of magnitude 5.7 struck the country at Axim, where some miners were buried alive. In 1862, another earthquake struck the country in Accra with magnitude 6.5, in which 3 people were killed and many structures destroyed.

According to Dr. Amponsah, severe earthquakes struck the country in 1906, 1939, 1964, 1969, 1997 and 2003. She added that recently earth tremors have been recorded on 24th March, 2018; 9th December, 2018; January, 2019; February, 2019; and the most recent one occurred on 2nd March, 2019. She said all these tremors recorded magnitudes less than 4.

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The discussion revealed the areas of Kasoa, Awutu-Senya, Weija-Gbawe, McCarthy Hill, Adenta and others located near the intersection of the two major fault zones in the country – namely the Akwapim fault zone and the Coastal boundary fault zone – are prone to seismic activities, hence earthquake are high in occurrence.

She recommended that for our country to be resilient to earthquake disasters, we must be proactive in our planning process at both local and national levels.

Speakers: (From l-r): Ing. Michael Obeng-Konadu; Ing. Mrs. Carlien Bou-Chedid; Dr. Paulina Amponsah; and Ing. Dr. Nii Allotey

Another speaker for the day, Ing. Dr. Nii Allotey, also suggested that a serious national decision to make on earthquake disaster is ‘change’. “Many countries have learnt their lessons the hard way. A country puts earthquake mitigation aside at its own peril,” he added.

Ing. Michael Obeng-Konadu, who also spoke on the human elements in earthquakes, stressed that the anthropogenic activities which increase earthquake-effects include poorly engineered buildings on steep slopes, sand-winning activities and rock quarrying – including the use of explosives at the base of slopes; farming activities at base of slopes; obstruction of natural drainage; and absence of properly-designed slope protection measures in populated hill-site areas.

On her part, the Past President of GhIE, who is currently President-elect for the Federation of African Engineering Organisation (FAEO), Ing. Mrs. Carlien Bou-Chedid, suggested that the country put up a deliberate plan to ensure that all public buildings are retrofitted to be able to stand earthquakes and tremors. She advised the public that in the event of an earthquake, they should remain calm, drop down, take cover; as soon as the ground shaking stops, leave the buildings and stay out in the open – and not immediately return to buildings because there could be aftershocks.

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Giving the closing remarks, Executive Director of GhIE, Ing. Kwabena Agyei Agyepong, called on Municipal, District Assemblies and Departments responsible for building permits to ensure the right professionals are consulted to minimise the risks and damage that earthquakes and tremors cause in the country.

Those present at the programme included the President of GhIE, Ing. Alexander Leslie Ayeh; Council members of GhIE; Past Presidents of GhIE; members from sister professional bodies, the Fire Service, NADMO and the media.

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