An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 struck Nepal on Saturday 25th April 2015 at 11.41 am (local time), the worst in 81 years. A state of emergency was declared as over 7,000 fatalities were reported by the following Saturday. The epicentre of the earthquake was 2km below the ground. As a result of the shallow nature of the earthquake, the impacts have been devastating, toppling buildings, opening gaping cracks in roads and sending people rushing into the open as aftershocks rattled their damaged homes.
Where do major earthquakes happen and why? view here
Seismologists have expected a major earthquake in western Nepal, where pressure has been building from the grinding between tectonic plates — the northern Eurasia plate and the up-thrusting Indian plate.
The quake caused dozens of buildings in Kathmandu to collapse, including the historic Dharahara Tower. The city’s main hospital was overwhelmed by casualties and residents faced a nights on the streets with nowhere to go. Most of the Nepalese fatalities were from the Kathmandu Valley.
The earthquake caused avalanches on Mount Everest. An Indian army mountaineering team has found 18 bodies on Mount Everest.
The avalanche had buried part of the base camp and two tents had been filled with casualties.
Ministry officials estimated that at least 1,000 climbers, including about 400 foreigners, had been at base camp or on Everest when the earthquake struck.
At least 34 deaths occurred in northern India. Buildings swayed in Tibet and Bangladesh.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. As a result, it is not best placed to deal with such a major natural disaster GNP per capita of Nepal is $730 (2013), whereas the GNP per capital of the UK is $41,680 (2013).
Political instability does little to boost Nepal’s resilience. “This earthquake is the nightmare scenario. The country has … suffered terrible conflicts, poor governance, and heart-wrenching poverty, all of which created and perpetuated the vulnerability which has been devastatingly exposed.” (Ian Kelman of the UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction).
The government had made some improvements in making some buildings more robust and reinforcing vulnerable ones, but many larger buildings, such as hospitals and older homes, remained extremely vulnerable. In addition, rapid urbanisation in cities like Kathmandu has meant that many homes have been built at a high density.
However, it appears that newer buildings fared better and withstood the quake, whereas the older buildings were worse affected. On the positive side, the earthquake struck on a Saturday, when schools were not in session, which may have reduced the death toll.
VIDEO – More drone footage was filmed in the Sindhupalchok district, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Kathmandu, near the epicentre of the earthquake
The problems were compounded by erratic internet and mobile phone communications. Many roads were blocked by rubble, there were landslides as well. As a result, getting aid to places that needed it was more difficult.
The US sent a disaster response team and released an initial $1m (£0.7m) according to the US aid agency USAid
India sent several aircraft, carrying medical supplies and a mobile hospital, as well as a 40-strong disaster response team, including rescuers with dogs
The UK is sent an eight-strong team of humanitarian experts
Pakistan is sent four C-130 aircraft carrying a 30-bed field hospital and army doctors and specialists; urban search-and-rescue teams equipped with radars and sniffer dogs; and food items, including 2,000 meals, 200 tents and 600 blankets
Norway promised 30 million krone (£2.5m; $3.9m) in humanitarian assistance
Germany, Spain, France, Israel and the European Union also pledged to send aid
It was the fourth largest earthquake in recent times. 14 countries were affected including Indonesia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Bangladesh. Among the worst-hit regions was Aceh, an Indonesian province on the northern tip of Sumatra. 30 metre high waves travelled inland, killing approximately 130,000 people, whilst more than half a million were displaced.
This selection of images also shows the extent of the impact and how people and the environment have recovered since
Sky News documentary – 10 years after the wave:
The World Health Organization estimates that up to 20 percent of a population may suffer stress-related disorders in the aftermath of a calamity like the Indian Ocean tsunami.
Impact on tourism
Many were concerned that the tsunami would have a long term impact on the tourism industry in places like Indonesia and Thailand. However, Phuket recovered within 6 months according to those involved in tourism in the area. Read more here
In communities where the tsunami cost lives, research suggests there has been a fertility boom. Mothers who lost children during the disaster were much more likely to have more children in the 5 years after the event, than those who did not suffer a death. Read more about the research here.
Learning the lessons
The tsunami prompted a rethink of Indonesia’s disaster management procedures. In the aftermath of the disaster, laws were passed making it mandatory for new homes, buildings and schools to include disaster mitigation plans.
In Banda Aceh, signs now point out tsunami evacuation routes and in some places warning sirens have been installed.
The Aceh Tsunami Museum — housed in a building shaped like the prow of a ship — not only commemorates the disaster, but also serves as an emergency shelter should a tsunami ever hit the city again.
Also, each year teachers take part in disaster training conducted by the government and the Indonesian Red Cross. Many schools also holds annual disaster drills to teach students what to do in the event of another major event.
In Phuket, communities have taken responsibility for preparations in the event of another tsunami. VIDEO REPORT here:
In 2010, Sri Lanka carried out its first major earthquake and tsunami drill. 14,000 people across 14 coastal areas were evacuated. Read more here
More have been carried out since on a regular basis
Meanwhile, 24 countries participated in a major Indian Ocean-wide mock tsunami drill on September 9th and 10th 2014 that was aimed at testing the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS). More details here
Sources – BBC News; Sky News; Daily Telegraph; Oxfam; New York Daily News; Phuket Gazette; The Jakarta Globe; IRIN News; News First Sri Lanka; ABC News (Australia); CBS News; The Independent; Views of the world; Al Jazeera English