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At 2.53 am on October 25, 1991, a moderate earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale affected more than 425,000 people of about 2,100 villages in the districts of Uttarkashi, Tehri and Chamoli in what was then Uttar Pradesh and is now the hill state of Uttaranchal. Traditionally built timber houses proved to be the most effective at keeping damage at bay.

It would, however, be incorrect to say that the old-fashioned houses survived just because of materials used. The construction techniques, too, determined the amount of damage. Making houses for earthquake-prone areas is more about