ULLAS SATVI, headmaster of Dhundalwadi Ashramshala is dealing with distraught parents since morning. “The Class X exams started today. The Class XII exams have been going on. The children are used to the tremors now, but the parents worry. So, many of them have landed up wanting to take their children home. Convincing them has been an uphill task,” he said.
Since the earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter Scale hit on February 1, when a four-year-old girl died in Haladpada village, the quake Friday — measuring 4.3 on the Richter Scale — was the highest recorded in the area. While no structures have collapsed, various buildings have developed cracks.
“The exams had started and within 15 minutes, the tremors struck. The children were scared a bit. Usually, we don’t feel so much of the tremors, but this time it was real. It lasted hardly for a couple of seconds, but it was scary,” an invigilator at Talasari civil school said.
The earthquake was felt over a region of around 40 km from where it originated at the Gujarat-Maharashtra border. “The epicentre of the earthquakes are moving further away from Dhundalwadi, but the tremors are increasing too. It is scary, but we can’t do anything until the exams get over,” Satvi said. Three more earthquakes were recorded on Friday, but none of them were felt seriously overground.
Over 10,000 villagers of more than 40 villages in Dahanu have been sleeping outside their houses since November 2018. “I was hoping that the February earthquake would be highest, but this was more scary. I felt the ground giving way under my feet and had to hold on to a tree,” said Surya Ghoda, a resident of Karanjvira village near Dhundalwadi. His wife, Anita said, “My first thoughts were about my children, two of whom were in school. The youngest, my daughter, was out playing. I ran to fetch her and asked my husband to bring back the other children.”
Ghoda, however, refused to fetch children from the school. “This keeps on happening. Can’t keep getting them out of school after every tremor. I just want this to stop forever,” he said.
Several villagers requested for tents from the collector’s office, the local civic representatives said. “Some people were living in their houses as they were cement structures and would just step out to sleep. But deep cracks have come up in all of the single-storey houses. So, most of the residents of Haladpada and Bajarpada are now setting up house inside the tents and don’t want to go home,” said Ananta Mahal, an anganwadi worker in Haladpada.
The 4.3 quake have left many geologists confused, as the shallow earthquake travelled far. “Generally, shallow earthquakes don’t affect a larger region. But we are studying the seismic activity and will have to understand the situation better,” said a geologist at the station set up by the Palghar disaster management team near Dhundalwadi.
“The ambulances made multiple rounds in the area well into the afternoon. I was worried that someone had been injured or worse. But they assured us that no one had been injured. Tell me, is it a good thing or should we worry that when injury and destruction come, it will be in bulk?” Sarita Ghoda asked.