Saturday, November 07, 2009

Rawalpindi nuclear attack scenario

Posted by Shiv on Bharat-Rakshak Forum, a scenario about the effects of a 50 kiloton nuclear bomb attack on Rawalpindi in northern Pakistan.

Rawalpindi is dense housing. When you use a nuke you have to plan to cause the maximum pain and must select the most highly populated areas. 50 kilotons is proven and undisputed Indian capability in warheads that are light enough to be delivered by any and every of the delivery vehicles that India has, and Rawalpindi is within range of all of them, and is certain to get hit the day Pakistan launches any nuclear attack on an Indian entity. It is also small enough to reduce the likelihood of fallout reaching India.

The town has a population of about 700,000 and a population density of nearly 25,000 people per sq km. The streets of Rawal town are narrow with contiguous lines of poorly built old brick and mortar buildings or newer concrete constructions on either side. Most are two to three stories tall. Typically the first floor has a front balcony or verandah that is enclosed by a decorative (and highly inflammable) wood and glass frontage. Rawalpindi is home to some fabulous open air markets selling everything from food, to silk. The streets in these markets are seething with people, and the street vendors often use a highly inflammable plastic or canvas sheet as a sun shade.



A 50 kt bomb exploding causes intense flash of heat that melts ceramic and granite for a radius of about a kilometer below the point of explosion. This is followed by a devastating pressure wave that will destroy all concrete structures for a radius of about 2 km. From 2 to 4 km almost every building is brought down, if not severely damaged. In the central zone - winds of up to 800 kmph follow the blast. Even 4 km way there are winds of 400 kmph blasting glass into small shards and that find their way into people who survive a collapsed building. Even beyond the 4 km zone - people who have faces and other parts of the body exposed to the flash will develop "flash burns". Some will go blind while others will require hospitalization for burns.

In general, when a nuclear bomb explodes over a populated area, the people who are killed immediately are affected both by blast and burns and are closest to the hypocenter or "ground zero" above which the bomb exploded. For a 50 kiloton blast this area extends up to a radius of 2 km from the hypocenter. In the outer radius all buildings will be crushed burying people within them instantly. Many of the injured in this zone will additionally suffer radiation sickness adding to mortality. The decorated wooden frontages of buildings and the sun covers of street vendors, and gas cylinders and lamps will all catch fire instantly.

a single 50 kiloton blast over a crucial populated area of Rawalpindi will kill over 400,000 people and leave a similar number injured. This amounts to about 25% of the population of Rawalpindi. 250,000 injured people is a huge number. Many will go a few hundred meters or a few km and collapse on the road, with a huddle of relatives around them not knowing what to do. There is absolutely no chance of a city like Islamabad/Rawalpindi of handling 35 to 40,000 cases of flash burns simultaneously from a total of 350,000 injured people with all sorts of injuries. No country in the world can do that.

I believe Pakistani leaders who wish to start a nuclear war with India will have to consider very carefully what they are asking for, and remember that they will probably survive the Indian retaliation, and will emerge from their nuclear bunkers to live in a country such as what I have described above. They will then have to see how long they can continue to live under such circumstances or which country will accept them as refugees if they want to cut and run, after having started a nuclear war.