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Bounded by the western and eastern syntaxes, the Himalayan region has experienced at least five M~8 earthquakes during a seismically very active phase from 1897 through 1952. However, there has been a paucity of M~8 earthquakes since 1952. Examining of various catalogues and seismograms from the Gottingen Observatory, it is established that this quiescence of M~8 earthquakes is real. While it has not been possible to forecast earthquakes, there has been a success in making a medium term forecast of an M 7.3 earthquake in the adjoining Indo-Burmese arc. Similarly we find that in the central Himalayan region, earthquakes of M>6.5 have been preceded by seismic swarms and quiescences. In the recent past, based on GPS data, estimates have been made of the accumulated strains and it is postulated that a number of M~8 earthquakes are imminent in the Himalayan region. We examine these estimates and find that while earthquakes of M~8 may occur in the region, however, the available GPS data and their interpretation do not necessarily suggest their size and time of occurrence and whether an earthquake in a particular segment will occur sooner in comparison to that in the neighboring segment. We also comment on the inference of occurrence of M~8 earthquakes based on M8 algorithm for the region. We conclude that while an M~8 earthquake could occur any time anywhere in the Himalayan region, there is no indication as of now as to where and when it would occur. We impress on the need for preparedness to mitigate the pending earthquake disaster in the region.

Gondwana Research 25 (2014) 204–213
National Disaster Management Authority, New Delhi 110029, India
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