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Burma Earthquake of May 1912

Burma Earthquake of May 1912

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Published by Sujit Dasgupta
Published descriptive document on May 1912 Burma earthquake
Published descriptive document on May 1912 Burma earthquake

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Sujit Dasgupta on Sep 19, 2010
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The Burma Earthquake of May 1912:
J. Coggin BrownMemoirs of the Geological Survey of India Volume XLII, Part I, 1917, page 1-147
[Only selected portion transcript]
The earthquake of 
May 18
was the first disturbance which took place in Upper Burmaduring the summer of 1912. It occurred between 2-45 AM and 3 AM (Burma StandardTime) as far as can be ascertained, and appears to have di9sturbed the western portions of the Northern and Southern Shan States. It caused no appreciable damage and probablydid not exceed an intensity of V on the Rossi-Forel scale. No records have been receivedof aftershocks following this quake.The violent
earthquake of 21
to have been felt throughout the whole or greater  part of the Northern and Southern Shan States, and the districts of Mandalay, RubyMines, Shwebo, Sagaing, Lower Chindwin, Kyaukse, Myingyan, Meiktila, Magwe,Yamethin, Toungoo, and Pegu as well as over Northern Siam. The minimum area over which it was sensible approximates, therefore, 125,000 square miles. In the central part of this area, an intensity of at least VII on R-F scale was attained, and in some places loudrumbling noises accompanied the shock. The intensity appears to have died away rapidly,and in places like Kani in the Lower Chindwin district, and in Pegu, only reached degreesII or III on the R-F scale. Unfortunately no exact time data exist, and the nearest approachto accuracy possible is to state that it took place about 3 PM (BST). This shock wasrecorded by the Omori seismograph at Rangoon College, and by the instruments at themeteorological stations throughout India. It was followed by continuous aftershocks feltduring the remainder of that and the following day in Maymyo, Mandalay, Taunggyi,Kyaukse and other places, and which gradually became fewer, until the climax wasreached by
great shock of the morning of 
May 23
, which was sensible over an area of 375,000 square miles approximately, and disturbed recording instruments throughout theworld. It was followed by innumerable small aftershocks in May, June, July and August,which gradually became fewer and finally ceased. Unhappily there are signs that theforces which caused the quakes have not yet attained equilibrium, for on January 18
,1913 a severe shock was experienced during the early hours of the morning in Maymyo.GENERAL ACCOUNTS OF THE EARTHQUAKESThe reports from
mentioned that nearly every year about this time, the stationin common with other towns in Upper Burma is visited by an earthquake, the last big onein 1908. At 3 AM on the morning of the 18
May, 1912, the first slight quake wasnoticed, but it did not cause much alarm. After that the shocks continued at irregular intervals and with varying intensities. At 3 PM on the 21
there was a fairly severe shock and the worst took place at about 9 AM on the morning of the 23
, causing a great dealof damage throughout the station. In the open it could be heard approaching from aconsiderable distance, the sound being like low thunder accompanied by the crash of falling bricks and plaster wherever buildings were in the vicinity. In Government House,Maymyo, wooden beams, bricks and plaster came down. In the club two chimneys and
several portions of the interior brick work fell, whilst nearly every fair-sized brick  building in the station suffered more or less severe damage. The Alexandra Barracksseemed to have fared worst on the whole. Several chimney stacks fell on to the roofs of the bungalows, and many more had to be pulled down afterwards as they were unsafe. Inthe administrative block of the station hospital two chimney stacks came down, theveranda roof was ripped off the family hospital, most of the married quarters were badlydamaged and four or five kitchens were wrecked. In the Chaplin’s house the greater partof the drawing room walls collapsed. The officers’ mess of the Border Regiment wasinjured. The Mohammedan mosque looked as if it had only just escaped demolition, andan eye- witness said that the Baptist Church tower only seemed to stand by a miracle, sogreat was the swaying. On the northern Shan States branch of the Burma Railways between Nawnghkio and Hsum-hsai, at mile 451 (29 miles by rail from Maymyo), 300tons of earth fell from a rock cutting and blocked the line. A little further on anembankment slipped and fell 5 feet, and a section of the line running north and south was bent in a curve to the east. Slight shocks continued throughout the day and are describedas being more like violent tremors than waves.Accounts from
state that the severe shock was felt about 9 AM on themorning of the 23
. It lasted about a minute and caused much damage which would have been enormous had the shaking continued a little longer. The Leper Asylum was crackedin every direction. The Roman Catholic cathedral was very badly cracked. The mosque inB. road lost ten feet at the top. The Wesleyan School had a loose mass of masonry restingover nearly every doorway. The 20,000 gallon water tank in the Zeygyo Bazar, and theTramway oil tanks slopped about carelessly carried hand-basins. During the shocksinmates of houses bolted into the open. Later accounts described the dismantling andrepairing which was going on in various parts of the city.From
came the news that the shock lasted over one minute there and causedconsiderable damage to the buildings in the station. The telegraph office suffered mostand the staff had to take to tents. Almost all chimneys were thrown down or cracked,while the military hospital, treasury and military police quarter guard were in a criticalcondition.At
numerous foreshocks were felt, but most damage was caused by the shock which occurred about 9 AM on May 23
. Almost all the brick buildings in the town wereceacked while no less than 60 pagodas fell down. Owing to damage caused to waterpipes by falling rocks, the electric supply of the Ruby Mines Company Ltd. was interfered withand the place was in darkness for two nights.Reports also appeared from Meiktila, Toungoo, Sagaing, Hsipaw, Gokteik, Kalaw,Yamethin, Bhamo, Rangoon and various towns in Siam, which will be referred to later. Itis proposed to arrange all the accounts which have been received according to theadministrative divisions of the province, commencing first with those districts in Upper Burma where the shock of May 23
was most severely felt.
 EPICENTRAL AND SEVERELY SHAKEN AREASMandalay City and DistrictThe city of Mandalay lies in the centre of the narrow belt of the Irrawaddy alluviumwhich in this neighbourhood diminishes to a minimum width of 11 miles. To the west of the river the alluvial plain is bounded by the long narrow range of the Sagaing hills, belonging to the Mogok gneissic series, with terraces of yellow sand-rock of late Tertiaryage covering its base. On the east rise the lofty limestone hills forming the rim of theShan plateau. The alluvium probably does not attain a very great thickness, for to thenorth of the city Mandalay Hill rises steeply from the plain. Both this and other isolatedhills in the vicinity are composed of gneisses and crystalline limestones of the Mogok series. The whole length of the western edge of the Shan plateau forms a great scarpmarked by a fault, which is held to bear a considerable geological likeness to the outer  bounding fault of the Himalaya.Of the 2100 sq miles comprised within the Mandalay district only about 600 sq miles areflat land. This lies along the Irrawaddy River with a few solitary hills rising in placesfrom the level alluvium. The remaining 1,500 sq miles, in the north and east of thedistrict, are made up of high hills and plateaux forming a part of the Shan tableland of Upper Burma. At the edge of this the fall to the plains averages 3000 to 4000 feet in 10miles.Mandalay city is divided into – 1. The Municipal area2. The CantonmentThe former is enclosed within an area which measures about 6 miles from north to southand 3 miles from east to west. It is laid out symmetrically with wide roads, and althoughmany brick buildings exist, especially in the commercial quarters, a large part of the population lives in wooden houses of the ordinary Burmese style. The Cantonmentcomprises what was formally known as the city, i.e., the portion between the four brick walls built in 1856-57 by King Mindon. It is now often referred to as Fort Dufferin.Within the total area three-quarters of the masonry structures were damaged; there werefive total collapses; 31 buildings were severely damaged and 75 more or less cracked. Nearly every pagoda and masonry rest-house in the city was damaged. The 75 damaged buildings enumerated by the Municipal Engineer were situated in the Chanethazan,Pyigyikyetthaye, Aungnanyeiktha, Yadanabonmi, Mahaaungmye, Shwebonshein,Thirihema and Hemazala Quarters of the city. They include the Taungdaman, Sagu andMasoeyein monasteries and the Chinese Temple. The clock tower of the Zeygyo Bazar swayed backwards and forwards and was undamaged, but the metal finial fell and bentover due north.

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