By Devesh Narayanan:
A powerful earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale shook Nepal yesterday, killing more than 2000 and injuring more than 1700 people from Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh and Northern India. The local Government has declared a state of emergency, and a massive rescuing operation has been initiated even as support continues to pour from all sides. The massive tremors and subsequent aftershocks demolished houses, triggered huge avalanches on Mt. Everest, and destroyed immemorial temples and monuments including the iconic Dharahara tower in Kathmandu. “Everyone is scared of a repeat,” said Rabin Shakya, a local survivor. “I rushed outside when I felt the earthquake. I was terrified. I’ve stayed outside all day.”
The earthquake occurred as the result of thrust faulting near the main frontal thrust between the subducting India plate and the overriding Eurasia plate to the north, as reported by the U.S Geological Survey. With an epicenter about 80 kilometers away from Kathmandu, and a depth of 11 kilometers, this particular earthquake was so destructive that the tremors were felt across India, Pakistan, Tibet and Bangladesh. Witnesses say that the trembling and swaying of the Earth went on for several minutes. This region, however, has long been known to be one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth, with the constant underthrusting of India beneath Eurasia generating numerous earthquakes in the past century. The largest of these, the powerful 8.0 Nepal-Bihar earthquake in 1934 all but destroyed Nepal’s infrastructure, killing more than 10,600.
Aftershocks continued to ripple across the region all day, and thousands of people stayed outdoors even as many more remained trapped under the rubble. Yet Kathmandu has shown outstanding structural and communal resilience so far, and the people are tirelessly helping out in the search and rescue operations.
“We expect it to rain so people are finding temporary shelter, rushing back into their homes — when it’s safe to do so — to get cooking equipment and water, so by and large the city is now pretty stable, people are calm,” said aid worker Wes Pryor.
Support has poured in from political supremos from multiple countries, in the form of aid, relief supplies and rescue personnel. The Ministry of External Affairs has even set up a 24-hour Control Room to provide help and information, contactable at +91 11 2301 2113, +91 11 2301 4104 and +91 11 2301 7905, an official statement said. Google has launched a “Person Finder” for the victims, and all foreign embassies in Nepal are working incessantly to get people in touch with their families. Governmental officials from Nepal have expressed their gratitude for this heartwarming display of international solidarity, and are optimistic that this support could help mitigate some of the damage.
Given the high-risk, I strongly believe that the Governments should also work together on a more robust disaster mitigation system, in order to minimize the loss of human life as much as possible. The need for more earthquake-resilient structures and greater disaster-management awareness has never been more urgent, and I sincerely hope that Nepal would never have to deal with such colossal loss and damage ever again.
The media coverage and the soul-stirring images of this tragic incident can only capture a small part of the catastrophic destruction of life and property. I can only imagine the pain and suffering of the many people who had their lives torn apart by one unforeseen Act of God.
May the victims’ souls rest in peace, and may the families of these victims find solace. Here’s more information on how to help victims of the Nepal earthquake, no matter where you are.