Earthquake tragedies in Nepal and around the world

History of earthquake events in Nepal

Let’s have a quick review of the historical earthquake events in Nepal. This is also important because of the fact that the past earthquake events can help us predict the impact of future catastrophes to a large extent. In the recorded history, Nepal was heavily hit by the great earthquake in B.S 1310 (around 1253 C.E). Many were killed including then King Abhay Malla when the Kathmandu valley suffered this massive earthquake.

Since then, we have altogether faced 10 major earthquakes in Nepal in the span of nearly 700 years. Thus, a roughly estimated calculation shows that there is a probability of a catastrophic earthquake in Nepal every 70 years or so.

Looking back, the worst one was recorded in B.S 1990 (1934 C.E), which also affected our neighboring country India. The epicenter of the earthquake was located in Chainpur of Sankhuwasabha District. The intensity was measured 8.3 Magnitude

Bhaktapur Durbar Square EQ 1934   Photo Source: Google; Durbar Square, Bhaktapur, Nepal Earthquake, B.S 1990 (1934 C.E)

Despite remotely located epicenter, the earthquake terrorized Kathmandu valley with great catastrophes. More than 12,000 houses were absolutely leveled to the ground. Another 25,000 houses were badly destroyed and needed reconstruction. The destruction took more than 8,000 lives throughout the country. 4,000 were killed inside the valley alone. Ultimately, the total number of fatalities in Nepal and India exceeded 17,000. The earthquake of BS 1990 (1934 C.E) is considered one of the ten greatest earthquakes in the world till date.

Sundhara EQ 1934  Photo Source: Google; Sundhara, Kathmandu, After the earthquake in B.S 1990 (1934 C.E)

More recent earthquakes in Nepal

Many years after that, Nepal encountered another destructive earthquake in B.S 2045 (1988 C.E). The epicenter of the earthquake was located in Murkuchche of Udayapur District. Although this was a medium intensity earthquake of 6.6 Magnitude, it destroyed over 65,000 houses including schools, buildings, religious sites etc. throughout the country. 721 people were killed with thousands of injured. This was recorded as a medium intensity but high impact earthquake.

Golmadhi Bhaktapur EQ 1988  Photo Source: Google; Golmadhi, Bhaktapur, After the earthquake in B.S 2045 (1988 C.E)

Later in B.S 2068 (2068 C.E), we had another 6.9 Magnitude earthquake which had its epicenter near the border of Nepal and India. This medium intensity earthquake took 6 lives in Nepal while more than 40 were killed in India. Despite its moderate intensity, the earthquake was able to destroy 30,000 houses located in the eastern region from the Kathmandu valley.

The Gorkha Earthquake was one of the most devastating quakes hitting the country in recent times. Nearly 82 years after the mega earthquake of 1934 C.E, Nepal was heavily shaken by the recent M 7.6 earthquake on Saturday, 25th April, 2015 at 11:56 NST and a subsequent major aftershock of M 6.8 on Tuesday, 12th May, 2015 at 12:50 NST. With the epicenters located in Gorkha and Dolakha Districts respectively, the massive tremors were significantly felt as far as in China, India and Bangladesh.

Nepal EQ 2015  Photo Source: Google; Gorkha Earthquake, B.S 2072 (2015 C.E)

The catastrophic earthquake and the following major aftershocks left around 9,000 dead, 23,000 injured and thousands homeless all over the country. The earthquakes affected almost one-third of the nation’s population in over 31 districts, out of which 14 were officially identified as the hardest hit.

Sudhara EQ 2015  Photo Source: Google; Sundhara, Kathmandu, Gorkha Earthquake, B.S 2072 (2015 C.E)

Scientific knowledge and past records have clearly shown that we live in a country which is very sensitive to earthquakes. Lack of earthquake risk awareness, safer building practices, earthquake preparedness activities and adequate response plans have made the situation even worse. This means Nepal is highly vulnerable to earthquakes and the looming risks are inevitable.

World’s major earthquakes in recent times

As we know, massive earthquakes are not very frequent, we can still learn from past earthquake disasters from other parts of the globe. In recent years, the world faced two massive earthquakes which taught us many things. The first one impacted Haiti on 12th January 2010 with an intensity of 7.0 Magnitude which was even less than the one we had in B.S 1990 (1934 C.E) in Nepal. This earthquake alone took nearly 300,000 lives in Haiti.

Haiti EQ 2010  Photo Source: Google; Haiti Earthquake, 2010

Same year, there was another massive earthquake in Chile on 27th February with an intensity of 8.8 Magnitude which released 700 times more energy than the Haiti earthquake. Although the earthquake struck Chile with higher intensity, the earthquake killed less than 1000 people throughout the country.

Chile EQ 2010 Photo: Source; Chile Earthquake, 2010

It was clearly evident that Haiti was not prepared for the earthquake. It was a complete disaster. The capital city Port-au-Prince was leveled to the ground. People did not think about earthquake risks. The infrastructures were weak. People did not care to construct earthquake safe buildings in Haiti. On the other hand, Chile was prepared for such earthquake disasters at personal, community as well as national levels. Compared to Haiti, the buildings and infrastructures were relatively safer in Chile.

After comparing these two major earthquake events, let’s discuss a little about another giant earthquake which shook Japan very badly in 2011. The intensity of the earthquake in Japan was 9.0 Magnitude, a really big one.

Japan EQ 2011 - 1  Photo Source: Google; Japan Earthquake/Tsunami, 2011

News of massive casualties, property damage and destructions were reported initially. But, later it became clearer that most of the casualties and property damages were resulted by the Tsunami which was indeed caused by the earthquake. Out of around 16,000 casualties, over 14,000 people died because of drowning and not direct result of the earthquake alone.

Japan EQ 2011 - 2                          Photo Source: Google; Japan Earthquake/Tsunami, 2011

Japan has strict building code regulations which are followed to a tee. The earthquake in Japan did not directly cause many building collapses. Also, people were prepared to perform safe behavior during and after the earthquake. This resulted in less number of direct casualties due to the earthquake itself.

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