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Nepal Case study

The Nepal Earthquake of 25th April, 2015

At the time of the earthquake Nepal was one of the poorest countries in the world, with a HDI of 0.556 (2015) (218th in the world) and a GNI of $2,660 per annum, a lower middle income country.

Nepal is also a Least Developed Country, as recognised by the UN. Much of the population in this region live in houses that are highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking: unreinforced brick masonry and the like. (Source)

Background

  • The earthquake occurred at 11:26 (local time) on Saturday the 25th of April
  • Estimated at 7.8 to 7.9 on the Richter scale.
  • Aftershocks followed, one at 6.7 on Sunday the 26th of April
  • On 12 May 2015 at 12:35 another massive aftershock occurred with a moment magnitude of 7.3. The epicenter was near the Chinese border between the capital of Kathmandu and Mt. Everest. More than 200 people were killed and more than 2,500 were injured by this aftershock

USGS shake map

Causes

The earthquake was approximately 80 km to the northwest of the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu. The Indian plate is converging (colliding) with Eurasia at a rate of 45 mm/yr towards the north-northeast, driving the uplift of the Himalayan mountain range. The India plate is subducting under the overriding Eurasian plate. The earthquake occurred as the result of this movement thrusting through a fault running off the plate margin. Where the plates meet strain energy builds up which, when released, violently shakes the ground with its seismic energy. The earthquake's effects were amplified in Kathmandu as it sits on the Kathmandu Basin, which contains up to 600 m of sedimentary rocks, representing the infilling of a lake.

Nepal Earthquake map

Primary effects

  • 8,632 dead (Official death toll)
  • 19,009 injured (Official)
  • Worst earthquake in Nepal in more than 80 years
  • Centuries-old buildings were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley, including some at the Changu Narayan Temple and the Dharahara Tower.
  • Thousands of houses were destroyed across many districts of the country
  • Hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless with entire villages flattened
  • 1.7 million children had been driven out into the open

Secondary effects

  1. Harvests reduced or lost this season
  2. U.S. Geological Survey initially estimated economic losses at 9 percent to 50 percent of gross domestic product, with a best guess of 35 percent.
  3. The steep valleys of the area suffered many landslides, the village of Ghodatabela was covered killing 250 people
  4. The earthquake triggered avalanche on Mount Everest, killing 17 people. Estimates put the number of trekkers and climbers at base camp at the time of the quake at up to 1000
  5. Estimates of damage put at $10billion by Nepalese government
  6. The earthquake massively reduced tourism over the long term, a key industry for this mountain kingdom

Nepal map
The Earthquake and aftershocks mapped

Responses

SHORT TERM

  • Tent cities sprung up in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal
  • Responses were criticised as slow - the hardest hit Gorkha-Lamjung epicentre area was visited by helicopter the day after the earthquake and hundreds were feared dead in this area
  • 90 percent of soldiers from the Nepalese army mobilised to worst hit areas, but efforts were hampered by landslides and damaged infrastructure
  • On May 1st international aid agencies like Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and the Red Cross were able to start medically evacuating the critically wounded by helicopter from outlying areas.
  • GIS tool “Crisis mapping” was used to coordinate the response
  • Surgeons and inflatable hospitals were used (source)

LONG TERM

  1. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided a USD$3 million grant to Nepal for immediate relief efforts; and up to USD$200 million for the first phase of rehabilitation.
  2. Aid was donated by a huge number of countries. The UK gave £73 million, of which £23 million was donated by the government and £50 million was donated by the public. The UK also provided 30 tonnes of humanitarian aid and 8 tonnes of equipment. Finally, the UK offered expert help by sending around 100 search and rescue responders, medical experts, and disaster and rescue experts deployed by the Department for International Development; engineers from the British Army's Brigade of Ghurkhas (ironically, Nepalese soldiers working in the British Army); three Chinook helicopters (returned unused by the Nepali government). 
  3. International aid was provided by India and China who in total committed over $1 billion to help support Nepal.
  4. A new government taskforce was created to help deal with future earthquakes.
  5. People are now being educated across Nepal to do earthquake drills.
  6. Two years after the quake, only about 28,000 (3.4%) of those homes and buildings that qualified to receive government assistance for reconstruction – had been rebuilt. A year later, about 113,000 (13.7% of the total) were rebuilt.

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