What if a war breaks out?
Srinagar, Publish Date: Oct 30 2016 10:51PM | Updated Date: Oct 30 2016 10:51PMOn a late September night I had barely closed my eyes when my cell phone rang, Hello! It’s me said my mother in law, Can I talk to Rose, She asked. I was more than happy to handover my mobile phone to my wife. For the next ten minutes I heard my wife arguing with her mother on the issue of us moving to the relative safety of their house which is about 4 Kilometers from where we live in immediate proximity to the Srinagar Airport, a high value target in any war. My mother in law was sensing immediate hostilities between two sibling nations in a perpetual M.A.D (mutually assured destruction) state since seven decades of their independence from the British in August 1947. What if this place is bombed tonight my wife asked me. I asked her to go to sleep but not before she added, what if it is a nuclear attack? In that case, we will not survive! I answered straight. What I remember hearing last before I slept that night was my wife reciting verses of “Ayat Al Kursi” from the Holy Quran.In the contemporary times Kashmir, North Korea and Middle East have often been seen as potential nuclear flash points on account of unresolved political conflicts. The nuclear buildup that started in the USA and USSR is now a looming threat over the conflict zones of Asia. In 1945 United States of America developed a Nuclear weapon with the sole aim of promoting peace and ending the atrocities and horrors of the Second World War. The Atom bombs “ Little boy” weighing about 10-13 kilotons were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing about 250,000 people besides causing injuries and destruction on a large scale. Ironically! The Second World War ended after this first ever nuclear attack and the only one till date. The global nuclear arsenal witnessed tremendous build up between 1949 to 1985 with almost 65,000 nuclear warheads shared amongst the seven nation nuclear club. 95 percent of this dreadful nuclear stockpile belonged to arch cold war adversaries’ United States of America and the erstwhile Soviet Union. The super power nuclear arms race brought the human civilization nearly to the brink of planetary catastrophe. After 1985 a significant number of nuclear stockpiles were decommissioned leaving approximately 21,000 nuclear warheads with the nuclear club nations that now included India and Pakistan. After the breakup of Soviet Union in 1991 the idea of a full fledged nuclear war seems remote but the possibility of an isolated nuclear attack is possible. The global nuclear weapons stockpile is not completely secure making availability of fissionable materials like enriched Uranium and Plutonium possible. International atomic energy agency (IAEA) has recorded 175 nuclear thefts with 18 involving highly enriched Uranium between 1993 and 2006. Out of the global 1300-2100 metric tons of highly enriched Uranium, 100 metric tons are insecure. It takes 75 lbs to make the likes of “Little boy” nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. The possibility of nations using the nuclear option is remote and mostly rhetorical. In the world of statistical possibilities anything can happen if not at the hands of States but through the hands of non state actors. The Nuclear “Know How” technology is freely accessible. An undergraduate degree in nuclear physics will allow you to assemble a nuclear weapon, may be a dirty or a suit case bomb.
Should, there be a nuclear attack, what is the likely fallout? Within a radius of less than 1 km, the likely scenario in case of a more than 10 kiloton nuclear bomb detonation, chances of survival are slim, 90% you will not make it, just vaporized by the tens of millions Fahrenheit heat, the blast effects and acute radiation sickness. This reality makes me shiver as I share a boundary wall with the Srinagar Airport. In a radius of 3 Kms from the chances of survival are 50% and beyond within 13 Kms the chances of survival are 80% and more. If you survive the initial impact don’t look towards the bombing site since this is likely to blind you temporarily or permanently. You have just 10-20 minutes to get away from the site of blast before the radiation fallout from the mushroom cloud of the bomb starts, which usually peaks by 24 hours. Move away at least 2-3 Kms from the site in a direction perpendicular to the direction of the wind. Keep your mouth, nose, skin covered. As soon as you reach at a distance of 2-3 Kms or more decontaminate yourself by removing your clothes and taking a shower if possible. Seek a medical advice if available. Get into a shelter (preferably deep underground) for the next 48-72 hours and come out only when advised by safety response team which may even take weeks depending on the weight of the bomb. Should you not be able to move away immediately from the site, immediately duck and cover yourself behind a barrier which can be a wall, sand bags, or get into any shelter or room. At the earliest opportunity move away from the blast site. Radiation cloud usually settles down within a radius of 20 miles and may take days to weeks. The key to surviving a nuclear blast is getting out of and not going into harm’s way. Farther away you are from the blast site, longer it is in time from initial blast, and more separation between you and the outside atmosphere increases your chances of surviving a nuclear attack. Make sure you carry the bare minimum survival supplies inside the shelter and come out only when the ambient atmospheric levels of radiation levels are within normal permissible limits. Seek institutional medical advice on exit. Pregnant women, children and older people need to be on medical surveillance for a longer period of time. In a city like Delhi with a high population density the scenario is likely to be chaotic if panic sets in. People need to be sensitized to such situations beforehand. How does one know if the blast is nuclear or not? The scientists find it through radiation detectors and seismographic patterns but for a common person any deafening sound that you have never heard before accompanied by shaking of earth, light flashes and a mushroom shaped cloud could be a nuclear detonation.
Don’t leave the emergency response in the event of nuclear war on the state, you will be disappointed as State sponsored emergency response teams are themselves overwhelmed by the possibilities and consequences of a nuclear disaster. No American city has developed an effective or fool proof plan to deal with a nuclear detonation disaster or a meaningful organized state preparedness to an all out nuclear war. We can minimize the fatalities of a nuclear disaster by education and citizen participation. The only effective way to avoid the horrific consequences of nuclear disaster is by way of abolition of nuclear weapons. An all out Nuclear War is less likely than before but by no means out of question so prudence merits some amount of preparedness for the sad possibility. In a place like Kashmir there are hardly many houses with basements where one can run for shelter. Till we have them the best option is to run away as quickly and as far from the site of nuclear blast and stay there till it is safe. I hope and pray we don’t get to experience such a calamity. My mother in laws apprehensions on that September night were not totally baseless may be just a little melodramatic, but that is what love for life is all about.