30 Years Since The Devastating Killari Earthquake

by | Mar 9, 2023

MANAVLOK, the host organization I am working with has 7 sub-centers scattered over the three districts – Beed, Osmanabad, and Latur. This was my first visit to the Salegaon subcenter of MANAVLOK. Salegaon lies in the Omerga block of Osmanabad.

I along with three of our volunteers was traveling to Salegaon for an eye check-up camp. Patil ji, our volunteer was making me familiar with the place.  “Yaahan bahot saal pehle ek earthquake hua tha, killari earthquake. 29 saal ho gye lekin aaj bhi log vo din yaad kar ke darr jaate hai”, said Patil ji. Instantly, he had my attention. I was curious to know about what, when, and how it happened.

During my 7 days stay in Salegaon, I met people and went to places to know from them about the experience of the Killari Earthquake. This blog is a document of what I saw and heard from the people of Salegaon and Sastur Village.

It was Ganesh Visarjan the previous night. We had set up pandals in the village. After celebrating the ceremonies and enjoying food together with our families & loved ones, we slept off. I was sleeping outside the house. Our cow had given birth.I was taking care of the newborn

How old were you? – I interrupted  

“I was 17! It must have been quite early in the morning. All of a sudden, everything started shaking. I was baffled. It was pitch dark outside. Before I could fully open my eyes and see what is happening around me, the power went off.  I could hear a cacophony of noises but we couldn’t understand what was happening. In those times, we had mud houses. There was dust everywhere. People came running out of their houses. Some were screaming it’s a short circuit, the transformer has blown out!! Others were hastily running! They had no idea what an Earthquake is! Only those who were educated recognized that it was not a short circuit but an earthquake! In the morning we realized the intensity of the event. There was nothing. The houses crumbled like cookies. The dead bodies of the people were lying all around. The havoc didn’t stop there. Multiple aftershocks followed after that. We were scared for our lives. I could see people were stuck under the piles of bricks but I couldn’t do anything. Whenever I tried to rescue someone, a shock wave would hit. I was terrified for my life.”-

Suraj Shinde, resident of Salegaon village.

The Killari Earthquake hit the districts of Latur and Osmanabad on 30th September 1993 at 3:56 AM. Ausa block of Latur District and Omerga block of Osmanabad district was severely affected. The intraplate earthquake measured 6.2 on the moment magnitude scale. Killari village of the Ausa block of the Latur district was the epicenter.

Killing almost 10,000 people, the Killari earthquake has been marked as one the deadliest earthquake in the history of India. 30,000 people were injured in the disaster. The hypocenter of the earthquake was 10 km, relatively shallow, which caused major damage. A huge crater in the Killari village still remains in place.

“Hundreds of houses were damaged. As far as our eyes could see, it was only destruction. We were fearful of what might happen in the next moment. In a fraction of a second, people were homeless with no shelter and roof above their heads. Humanitarian aid NGOs came first to support the survivors. It rained heavily on the second day of the disaster making rescue operations harder to perform. There was no place to live. The NGOs built houses out of the tin shade for the victims. People who had big families were even in more trouble. It was a really difficult time for all of us”

For how long were you staying in the transit camps? – I asked

“2-3 Years. The government took time to rebuild the houses. We were in trauma. It wasn’t easy for any of us and especially for the people who had lost their family members in the disaster. We were told to return our fields. Keeping us busy with work was the only way to help us deal with our emotional trauma. A basic ration kit containing rice, salt, oil, flour, and some spices were given to the victims. Children who lost both parents were sent to orphanages.”

I visited a few sites in Salegaon where the earthquake remnants were still untouched. It has now become a place for cattle. Villagers bring their goats and cows for grazing. Yet, the place depicts the horror people went through that day.

The entire school got collapsed. The thought of it sent chills down my spine. I met a 75-year-old man while exploring the place and clicking pictures. After a short introduction, he said, – Earthquake se vaise logon ko fayeda bhi hua hai”. I was startled upon listening to his statement. I found it insensitive. With a slight disgust on my face, I questioned- “Why are you saying so?”

“That is because the government supported every victim of the disaster. They built cemented houses for all of us with a balcony and sufficient spacing between each house. People who were living in mud houses before, now owned big cemented houses. To financially support them, one member of each victim’s family was given a govt job. Apart from that, roads in the entire village were built. Not only this but a school and Public Healthcare Centre were also constructed. Yes, the earthquake did create massive havoc but in return, it gave a lot to the survivors”

After exploring Salegaon, I moved to Sastur village in the Omerga district. In Sastur, I found a Madarsa. It was constructed before 1993 but didn’t have any impact of the shockwaves.

Sab kuch deh gya tha lekin ye Madarsa ko aanch bhi nahi aayi. Ye saamne hospital tha, vo puri tarah se tahas nahas ho gya lekin Madarsa vaisa ka vaisa hi hai” (Everything had collapsed except this Madarsa. The hospital in front was also destroyed. Nothing happened to the Madarsa), a goat herder of Sastur village.

The dome-shaped structures are earthquake-proof. They are extremely lightweight since it doesn’t need posts and beams for construction. Considering the fact that the dome-shaped Madarsa survived the tremors of the Earthquake, Manavlok built its Salegaon Subcenter in a dome-shaped structure.

Sastur reported the highest number of causalities. These were due to the falling of wooden blocks used to support the ceiling. People are still fearful. Many houses in Sastur still have tin shades instead of concrete walls. The survivors have become resilient over the years but the trauma and fear are still there.

September 30th, 1993 was the black day for the residents of Latur and Omerga. The region lies on the fault line and is still prone to earthquakes. Predicting an earthquake is not possible, tectonic plates are moving miles underground and occurring in slow geological time making it hard for scientists to estimate the occurrence and frequency of an Earthquake.

“Patil ji, 1993 ke baad bhi koi earthquake aya idhar?”, I asked.

Han madam, aate rehte hain na.Lekin utne zor se nahi ata.Ayega to dekhnege, ab darne ka nahi hai.” (Yes, earthquakes do keep happening. But the intensity is low. We will see face it when the next earthquake comes. There is no point in getting scared right now.)

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