Earthquake Riks and Schools in Kathmandu

Topics: Earthquake, Emergency management, Richter magnitude scale Pages: 5 (1508 words) Published: September 18, 2011
-Prabesh Ghimire

Earthquakes have occurred on earth's surface since times immemorial. Thousands and thousands of earthquakes happen every year; however, most of them go unnoticed as they are either too weak on the Richter scale or happen in remotest of the areas. Earthquakes almost always result in loss of life and property; the magnitude of the problem depending upon the extent of quake. Earthquakes often pose serious risks to public health as issue of deaths, injuries and illnesses are often inevitable, followed by needs of safe drinking water, sanitation, health care and adequate nutrition. The damage of infrastructures, including hospitals and additional disruption of transportation & communication services could further escalate the risks to public health in the aftermath of earthquake. Moreover, this could disrupt the access to health care services, earthquake relief operations and access to basic minimum health needs. The circumstances could be more pronounced and devastating in the school environment.

Nepal is considered as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the South-East Asian region. According to a study by Geo Hazards International, Kathmandu, Nepal ranked first on the list of the most earthquake-vulnerable cities in the world. A recent study of UNDP/BCPR in 2004 has ranked Nepal, in terms of relative vulnerability to earthquakes, as the eleventh most at risk country in the world. Another report by World Bank in 2005 classifies Nepal as one of the global ‘hot-spots’ for natural disasters. According to GSHAP data, Nepal lies in a region with high to very high seismic hazard.

Approximately every 75 years, Kathmandu is impacted by an earthquake of magnitude 8.0. A strong scale earthquake is due to strike Nepal anytime. Kathmandu hasn't witnessed a major earthquake in the last 78 years. Although the quakes of 1988 (M 6.6 Richter) and another one that occurred a day ago (M 6.8 Richter) threatened and claimed several human lives and properties, that wasn’t as threatening as the prospect of 1934 earthquake (M 8.4 Richter). The larger the time gap (between quakes) the larger the quake is expected to be.

Nepal is a small and land locked country in South- East Asia, positioned between the two large and densely populated countries of Asia i.e. India and China. It covers an area of 147, 181 sq. km, situating between longitudes 80°4'E to 88°12'E and latitudes 26°22'N to 30°27'N, along the southern slopes of the Himalayas. The lowest altitude starts from 60 meters above the sea level in the Southern plain to 8, 848 meters in the Northern part. Various factors like rugged and fragile geophysical structure, high angle of slopes, complex geology, variable climatic circumstances, energetic tectonic processes, unplanned settlements, dense and escalating population, deprived economic conditions and low literacy rates have made Nepal vulnerable to natural disasters. Most part of the country is seismically active.

The seismic record of the country seems to suggest that earthquakes of the 1934 magnitude occur approximately every 75 years. Even though this is only a statistical estimate, no one questions that major earthquakes are an inescapable part of Nepal’s future. Many experts consider a major earthquake is bound to occur in the near future, considering the recent seismic activity in the region. Among all disaster scenarios in Nepal, none is as alarming as the prospect of a major earthquake affecting the Kathmandu Valley.

Kathmandu is among 21 cities around the world in seismic zones and the risk for the city is increasing every year. It is very likely that Kathmandu valley will be crucially affected in case of any imminent disaster such as earthquake. It appears that a medium size earthquake would result into a major disaster taking thousands of life and loss of assets. Various studies illustrate that a major earthquake similar to the one in 1934 would destroy 60 to...
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