by Tilottam Paudel
Nepal, a landlocked country, has its own history of earthquake. Earthquake, one of the most dangerous natural disasters is being experienced by various people in various places. Nepal is a seismic prone country and the risk it faces from earthquakes is very high. The main reason behind earthquake in Nepal is that 45 million years ago, the Indian continent collided into Southern Tibet. The Indian continent is driven under Tibet, pushing lightweight sediments upwards and thus the formation of the Himalayas. Nepal sits across the boundary between India and southern Tibet which are still moving towards each other by 2 meters per century. This movement creates pressure within the Earth, which builds up and can only be released through earthquakes. This is the only way earthquakes happen in Nepal.
Past records have shown that Nepal can expect two earthquakes of magnitude 7.5-8 on the Richter scale every forty years and one earthquake of magnitude of 8+ in Richter scale every eighty years. According to research there are around 92 fault lines which results earthquake in Nepal. And also in the list of most danger country of earthquake, Nepal is in the 11th position as well as the city in which there will be more human casualties, Nepal is in 1st position.
Recorded Historical Earthquakes in Nepal
Casualty figures were highest for any recorded earthquake in the history of Nepal. In total 8519 people lost their lives in Nepal, A total of 126355 houses were severely damaged and around 80893 buildings were completely destroyed. Total money spent from the earthquake relief fund was NRs 206500 inside Kathmandu valley only. Earthquake relief fund was established by the king, loans were provided for earthquake effected people and earthquake volunteers groups were formed.
The last great earthquake to strike Nepal was in 1934 which had a magnitude of 8.3 Richter. It caused considerable damage to buildings along with great loss of lives. Since then, the population in Nepal has skyrocketed urban development, unplanned and construction practices have deteriorated.
(National society for Earthquake Technology Nepal- NSET ; Seismic Hazard Mapping and Risk Assessment for Nepal, UNDP/ UNCHS (Habitat) Subproject)
Sunday, 18th September 2011 Earthquake in Nepal and Sikkim
Recently on 18th September, 2011, another earthquake came with a magnitude of 6.9 Richter. The epicentre was between the border of Taplejung, eastern Nepal, and the Indian state of Sikkim. The quake was followed by 130 after-shocks on Sunday and Monday, the highest measuring 6.1 and 5.3 magnitudes on the Richter scale, according to reports. The tremor lasted nearly a minute and it was felt in most parts of the country. This is the strongest quake to hit the country in 78 yrs.
The true extent of the damage to life and property caused by Sunday’s earthquake is starting to become clear as reports come in drove from across the country. It appears that eastern Nepal took the brunt of the strongest quake to hit the country in 78 years as the epicentre was in the Indian state of Sikkim, which borders Nepal’s easternmost hilly district Taplejung. (nepalnews.com)
As of writing this report, the total number of death is not exact as there are many reports yet to come. There is the report of hundreds of injuries, many serious, and countless of houses and property damaged.
Development Committee, Red Cross, and Armed Police Force base camp were also damaged in Sunday’s quake. Around five hundreds houses were destroyed after the quake. Mostly the school buildings, health post and police stations were damaged. According to the report 150 schools were damaged in which 50 schools were from Taplejung district alone, the nearest district to Sikkim. Likewise around 600 families in Illam and Pancthar districts have been rendered homeless by the quake. District Education Office, Ilam said over 50 schools suffered damage and classes in many schools have been halted due to the destruction. The earthquake also has damaged the main building, kitchen, hostel and library of the Jyalsa monastery at Salleri, the headquarters of Solukhumbu district. The monastery has archaeological importance. Similarly, Landslip has occurred in Taplejung in the aftermath of the quake. Reports also say government’s rescue effort has been affected as some 40 police stations in eight eastern Nepal districts have been partially destroyed. Electricity and phone services also remain halted in many districts in the region.
Likewise, among the deaths reported in Kathmandu valley, three people died in the Capital after the compound wall of the British Embassy at Lainchaur collapsed in the aftermath of the quake. On the basis of report altogether 104 people died in India, Nepal and Tibet due to the earthquake. Its number is expected to increase because rescue workers are still hoping to find buried survivors under collapsed buildings, but many fears that the death toll will continue to rise over the next few days.
There is difficult for rescue because both the Sikkim and north-eastern part of Nepal are much undeveloped, hilly, mountainous areas where there is no facility of airport, easy transportation and is far from the cities areas with hard communication and the climate is also not good in that places.
national newspapers websites
Government support for quake victims
The government has announced a relief package for the families of those killed and injured in the 6.8 magnitude-quake that jolted much of the country, especially eastern Nepal, on Sunday evening.
A meeting of Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee (CNDRC) presided by home minister Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar on Monday decided to direct all district-level natural disaster rescue committees to provide Rs 100,000 to the families of those who died in the earthquake as an immediate relief.
Similarly, the CNDRC, as per Prime Minister´s instruction, decided to urge Prime Minister Natural Disaster Rescue Fund to provide Rs 100,000 each to the families of the deceased. A meeting of the CNDRC also decided to provide free of cost treatment to all those injured in the earthquake. The CNDRC also asked district-level committees to furnish the details of damages caused by the quake in three days.
Similarly, the British Embrassy, in a statement deeply regretted the deaths and injuries to others as a result of the collapse. "The ambassador offered his condolences to the local community on Sunday evening and met with relatives of the victims on Monday morning," the statement issued by the embassy said. "The embassy will continue to do everything possible to help the local community and the government of Nepal. Relatives of deceased in British Embassy for compensation
According to Kantipur newspaper of Thursday, relief distribution to Sunday’s earthquake victims in the eastern hilly districts is going on at a snail’s pace. In Taplejung—where the earthquake caused extensive damage—the task of relief distribution and damage assessment started on Wednesday, beginning from Dokhu and Thechambu VDCs.
In the first phase of the relief distribution, the District Administration Office (DAO) and Nepal Red Cross are providing Rs 5,000 along with tarp, blankets and utensils to families whose houses were destroyed in the earthquake.
Relief distribution has progressed in Panchthar, four days after the earthquake ravaged scores of houses in the district. The District Natural Disaster Relief and Rescue Committee has mobilised its personnel in all the 41 VDCs of the district. However, they are yet to begin relief distribution. Only a few families in the district headquarters have received the relief so far.
Acting Chief District Officer Laxmi Kharel said they do not have enough funds to provide relief materials to all the victims. He said each team will be able to provide relief materials to only five families in one VDC. A Nepal Red Cross official said they can provide for only 116 families in the district. “There are more than 400 families in need of relief materials in one VDC alone,” he said.
In Ilam, the earthquake displaced around 1,000 families. Many families are from rural areas of the district and they are yet to receive relief materials. Meanwhile, the families rendered homeless by the quake have complained that the monetary assistance provided by the administration is not enough. Displaced family compelled to live under the open sky.
Risk of earthquakes in Nepal
smh.com.au (The Sydney morning herald)
With rescue work still under way in Nepal after Sunday’s deadly earthquake in the Himalayas, scientists have warned that the capital Kathmandu is a high-risk city unprepared for the next "Big One". Experts say Kathmandu is one of the most vulnerable cities in the world with an overdue earthquake predicted to kill tens of thousands of people and leave survivors cut off from international aid.
British geologist Dave Petley described the latest tremor, which killed eight people in Nepal, as a "wake-up call" for the overcrowded capital, home to two million people and connected to the outside world by just three roads and one airport runway.
"The main area of concern is in central and west Nepal, where there has not been a large earthquake for a long period," Petley said after Sunday’s 6.9-magnitude quake damaged hundreds of homes in the east of the country.
"This is an earthquake-prone area, so this suggests that there is a large amount of energy stored," he said.
Nepal is a highly seismic region, lying above the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates that created the Himalayas, and major earthquakes have hit the Kathmandu Valley every 75 years on average over recent centuries. One quake destroyed a quarter of homes in Kathmandu 77 years ago, and geologists believe the area is at immediate risk of an 8.0-magnitude tremor - ten times the size of last year’s Haiti quake which killed more than 225,000 people.
Downtown Kathmandu is a maze of narrow, winding roads where rickshaws and cars jostle with cows to squeeze past dilapidated clay, brick and timber houses. The building stock is not seismically strengthened ; suggesting that in a big earthquake there will be large numbers of building collapses. GeoHazards International, a US-based research group, has measured the likely death toll from a quake of 6.0 magnitude or higher hitting cities in Asia and the Americas.
Kathmandu topped the list of 21 cities with 69,000 potential deaths, ahead of Istanbul and New Delhi.
The Kathmandu Valley has experienced rapid, uncontrolled urbanization in the past few years and the lack of infrastructure and deep-rooted poverty leaves it desperately under-prepared for an earthquake, experts say. Building codes are rarely enforced, few emergency drills are carried out, and the fact that Kathmandu lies on the site of a prehistoric lake filled with soft sediment also exacerbates the risk.
The one single-runway airport and all three access roads would likely be destroyed in a major quake, meaning the city could be stranded. GeoHazards president Brian Tucker said researchers had compared the probability of a child in Kathmandu dying because an earthquake destroyed a school with the probability of the same situation in Tokyo. "The child in Kathmandu was 400 times more likely to die. This inequity is intolerable," he said.
The National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET), established after a 6.5-magnitude tremor killed more than 700 people in eastern Nepal in 1988, has launched a program to make school buildings more quake-resistant.
According to NSET, if a 7.0-magnitude quake hit Kathmandu, 200,000 people would die, another 200,000 would be severely injured, 1.5 million would be made homeless and 60 per cent of homes would be destroyed.
Concern of Jagriti Child and Youth Concern Nepal (JCYCN)
Though the government know the risk of the earthquakes in Nepal, Sunday’s quake proved that the government is not fully prepared to respond a mega disaster and people lack awareness about earthquake safety measures. The government capability to control disasters and conduct rescue operations is inadequate. Due to this quake mostly children are affected. According to the report also the number of children died in quake is higher than adults. Similarly, due to the lack of awareness and preparations many people were injured. Most incidents occurred due to fear and without any knowledge. That is why JCYCN as a non-governmental, non-profit making organization wants to help at the places affected by earthquake. JCYCN is likely to :
From Sunday’s earthquake we have learnt a lesson that we cannot predict quakes. But we should accept that we are living in a seismic region that is highly active, and the major jolt can strike anytime without any warning. So for that we have to remain prepared form earlier. This time neither the government has any emergency services nor other organizations has. JCYCN is aware of this and has planned to be preparing for it.
To sum up, natural disasters are dangerous and disasters like earthquakes cannot be controlled and avoided. Such quakes have many chances to come in Nepal again. We should be careful and prepare ourselves mentally and physically. Sunday’s earthquake has become a challenge for the government and citizens. It has been very difficult to rescue and to provide relief packages for the victims. Hundreds of people died, thousands houses damaged, thousands families displaced in Nepal, India and Tibet. Keeping in mind that there is no other religion greater than humanity, we should be ready to help others in such situations nationally and internationally.
Prepared by : Sheetal Subedi and Tilottam Paudel