Bihar, India Earthquake of 1934: A Brief Look Back

john's picture

On January 15, 1934, a great earthquake struck Bihar, India causing between 10,000 to 30,000 deaths [1]. 

With a magnitude of about 8.1 to 8.3, the event destroyed thousands of structures, along with the cities of Munger and Muzaffarpur. 

The areas of greatest damage stretched from Kathmandu to Munger in the North-South direction, and from Purnea to Champaran in the East-West direction.

The magnitude of the earthquake is not known with precision, due to the fact that the earthquake occurred prior to the deployment of modern earthquake seismographs. 

Seismic instruments of that period were adequate to measure the magnitudes and properties of earthquakes smaller than magnitude 6 or so, but were not sensitive to the longer wavelengths and periods of great earthquakes such as the Bihar event.

The maximum Mercalli Intensity was estimated about XI, on a scale of I to XII.

Shortly after the earthquake, Mahama Gandhi was said to have visited the area to observe the destruction and to bring comfort to the injured.

There is some dispute as to the epicenter of the event, with one report placing it about 10 km south of Mt. Everest.

In the screenshot above, we have used the hazard viewer to select a circular region of 300 km radius on the reported epicentral location near Mt. Everest.  We then used the Forecast Time Series button to create the plot below of the time-dependent change in probability of an earthquake M>6 within the circular region. 

Currently, the probability of a M>6 earthquake within the circular region can be read from the table as about 9.2% over the next year from now, June 13, 2013.  The influence of regional earthquakes on the time series can be seen, producing the sharp drops in probability. 

An M6.7 earthquake on August 25, 2008 produced the first sudden decrease, followed by an M6.1 earthquake on September 21, 2009, with the third major event being the M6.9 event on September 18, 2011. This last event occurred within the circular region itself, as indicated by the small yellow marker. 

This mountainous region is one of the most seismically active continental areas on earth.  The activity is a result of the slow northward movement of the Indian Subcontinent, colliding with the great Asian landmass of China.  Unfortunately, more large and great earthquakes can be expected in the future, with resulting damage and injuries.

[1]  Wikipedia entry on the Bihar Earthquake:


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umam12's picture

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HarryWilliams's picture

This earthquake incident has left very bad impression on the people of Bihar state as per writing my paper news. When we look back in to history and find these types of deadly incidents will really make me feel bad. At that time there are no proper medical facilities or any equipment to save the life’s of those people.

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