The great earthquake of 1897 in Assam has forever been etched in the history of the state as the most calamitous one. The devastation occurred exactly 124 years ago on June 12th. A massive earthquake of 8.2 magnitudes rocked the northeastern state, its tremor felt across India. The Shillong plateau rose violently by at least 11 m during the Assam earthquake – such was its power.
The earthquake arose near Garo hill and lasted for a whole 4 minutes. Earthquakes increased in Meghalaya, Shillong-Sylhet, Bhutan, Burma, Brahmaputra river speed changed, 1545 human casualties and catastrophic infrastructure damage. Among them, 545 people died in Bangladesh. During the British regime, many British structures and railways were destroyed.
Horrifying stories emerge out of such destruction. One narrative tells that a woman in Sunamganj had fallen through a fissure whilst on a river with her husband. The husband tried to hold onto her hair but couldn’t for too long. The woman’s body was never recovered from the abyss.
In Guwahati, the earthquake lasted for 3 minutes and the Brahmaputra river rose by 7.6 ft. In Shillong, the earthquake damaged every stone house, and half the houses built of wood resulting in 13 deaths. Reported sightings of earth-waves and water waves in Nalbari; a landslide in Sohra Cherrapunji resulted in 600 deaths. In the Sylhet region, the casualties rose to 545.
Not only that, the shocks collapsed multiple structures in Calcutta. Dozens of aftershocks were felt in and around the region with the last event recorded on 9 October 1897 at 01:40 UT in Calcutta.
Needless to say, nature can never be conquered, and disastrous effects like the earthquake of 1897 remind us of the power of natural forces.