Nepal’s Earthquake: A Country Struggling to Rise from the Debris

by Sukhmani Kaur

On April 25th, 2015 at 11:56 Nepalese Standard Time, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal. Its epicenter was the remote village of Barpak in Nepal’s Gorkha district, west of the country’s capital city, Kathmandu [1]. The earthquake’s hypocenter was recorded at a depth of 9.3 miles. This depth is considered shallow and therefore more likely to cause damage than quakes whose origin is deeper in the ground. Scientists believe that the earthquake was caused along a major fault line where the Indian plate is diving below the Eurasian Plate [2]. Kathmandu is reported to have shifted 10 feet to the south in the short duration of 30 seconds. The shocks from the tremors were felt deep into adjoining countries, such as India, China, and Bangladesh. The last earthquake that this mountainous country experienced was in 1934, known as the Nepal-Bihar earthquake [3].

The official death toll figures have risen steadily and currently stand at about 8,000, with 17,200 injured [4]. It is estimated that the total death figures may rise to above 10,000 as more bodies are recovered from remote, mountainous areas. The earthquake also sparked an avalanche on Mount Everest, which resulted in the loss of 19 lives, one of the deadliest days in the history of the mountain [5]. Another avalanche in the Langtang valley resulted in about 250 people reported as missing to date. The devastation caused by the quake extends far beyond the epicenter with about a total of 8.5 million affected as the earthquake and its powerful aftershocks flattened entire villages resulting in the loss of life and property. Several UNESCO heritage sites have been completely destroyed [6]. A major reason for the devastation is that the Nepalese government has not done enough to fortify buildings and make then resistant to earthquake related damage.

Relief efforts have been put forth by Nepal’s neighbors including India and China. Western countries like the United States and United Kingdom have also joined the effort along with the United Nations. US Marines have been recently dispatched to provide much needed helicopter support. Efforts have been hampered by the recurrent closure of the only international airport in Kathmandu [7]. As a result, relief supplies have piled up at the airport and have been unable to be delivered to the victims of the disaster. Nepalese citizens have criticized the slow response from their government. Many private organizations such as the Red Cross and Khalsa Aid have initiated a humanitarian aid mission to help Nepalese survivors [8, 9]. Donations can be directed through the Internet and social media sites. It is anticipated that building back the devastated nation will take decades to accomplish.