The beautiful capital city, Kathmandu, is located in the heart of Nepal and is known for is seismic activity. Though it is an active site, no one was prepared for the magnitude of the “Gorkha” earthquake on April 25th, 2015. The massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the city and affected roughly 8 million people. The earthquake was extremely widespread and left the city and surrounding areas in economic despair for years to come. The violent earthquake set off a chain of events that caused destruction and throughout Nepal.
The combination of Nepal’s unfortunately low economic status and their high-risk geological location creates a perfect environment for an extremely destructive natural disaster.
Nepal is home to a large portion of The Himalaya’s, which holds the highest peaks on the Earth’s surface. The formation of these massive mountains is key to understanding why the 2015 earthquake happened. Nepal is situated on the boundary of two tectonic plates, the India and Eurasia plates. The collision of these two massive plates is what is responsible for the formation of The Himalaya’s, and the stress of these now colliding plates is what is responsible for the earthquakes in this region.
On April 25th the stress between the plates became too much, and there was a sudden thrust where the Indian Plate is diving underneath the Eurasian plate. This resulted in the large earthquake that rocked Nepal, parts of India, and parts of China. The earthquake came at 11:56am local time, and it registered as an M7.
8. The epicenter of the earthquake was 82 Km northwest of Kathmandu, and was a shallow earthquake being only 12-15 Km below the surface. The earthquake was felt in central Nepal, parts of Bhutan, west Bangladesh, northern India, and even reported shaking in Kahuta, Pakistan. There were a few liquefaction sites found but not as many as scientist were expecting for the size of the earthquake. The earthquake triggered massive landslides and avalanches that caused havoc and destructions on many villages. The highest peak in the world, Mt. Everest, was shifted 3 cm southwest, and the height of the mountain remained the same. Mt. Everest also experienced its largest avalanche to record because of the earthquake. The large “Ghorka” earthquake was then followed by numerous aftershocks. The largest aftershock was a M7.3 that was on May 12th, 2017. This boundary region has an extensive history of large earthquakes. With three M6+ earthquakes happening within 250 Km of the “Ghorka” earthquake, this boundary region is one of the most seismically dangerous areas in the world. The city of Kathmandu sits within a valley, and its average climate is warm days and cool nights. The area experiences heavy rain, with its rainy season being June to September. It also has a dry season which extends from January to December.
In Nepal, the city of Kathmandu actually saw less damage than what was to be expected following a M7.8 earthquake. Scientists feel this was because the compacted sediments in the valley absorbed much of the shaking. However, even though the loss was less than expected, there were still thousands of deaths and injuries. Most of these deaths and injuries can be contributed to the poor construction due to the areas low economic status. There were roughly 9000 fatalities, 500,000 destroyed homes, and 23,000 injuries reported. Though building codes are in set in place, many homes are made of unreinforced brick and rock due to low resources. These poorly constructed villages took the most damage, while newer construction in Kathmandu experienced significantly less damage. Nepal is dominated by agriculture with it being more than 70% of its population’s main source of income. Nepal is also one of the poorest countries in the world, and over one-quarter of their population fall below the poverty line. The unemployment rate is extremely as well, with almost half of the country being unemployed. This leaves Nepal extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. With so many living in poverty, many parts of the country do not have the means to build homes to withstand earthquakes. With this many people in poverty, it also means that they lack transportation and money to buy resources as well. There is an extreme lack of technology in Nepal as well making it almost impossible to warm many parts of the country of an incoming natural disaster. The majority of the residents in the villages affected were the elderly, women, and children because the younger men left to find work in other places. This left an extremely vulnerable population in the already extremely poorly constructed buildings, which put these people at very high risk.
The extreme “Gorkha” earthquake left Nepal in economic despair that they have still not fully recovered from. This is due to political gridlock and corruption with Nepal’s government. When the earthquake struck Nepal’s government leaders were already in gridlock due to disagreements on new constructions in Nepal. Nepal’s leaders were heavily criticized for mismanaging the money given for relief which shifted the media focus from the victims to the political mess of Nepal. Because of the criticism, the leaders deiced to rush construction but that resulted in an outbreak of violence which left 40 people dead. More than $4 billion was pledged to help Nepal, but very little of that money made its way to the relief efforts. The recovery process has been an extremely slow and grueling process for the people of Nepal. Two years after the earthquake almost 70% of the affected people were still living in temporary shelters. Many of Nepal’s citizens have spent multiple winters without proper shelter. Other factors contributed to the slow rebuilding of Nepal. Surveying of the damage caused by the earthquake took nearly a year due to aftershocks, yearly rains, and hard-to-reach areas of land. Due to the economic status of most of the victims before the earthquake, most of them did not have the means to even begin to think of rebuilding after the disaster hit. Immediate aid was received and many parties were sent out to help victims, but after the immediate help the aid instantly slowed down. At the beginning of 2018, rebuilding just started to pick up at a promising pace and Nepal is continuing to rebuild 3 years later.