Just yesterday (Saturday) right before 12 noon, an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter magnitude struck Nepal at a spot nearby its capital city of Kathmandu. This is considered a major earthquake – and even the aftershocks reached up to a magnitude of 6.7 according to some sources. It has caused immense destruction to the buildings and infrastructure of Kathmandu, and has affected significant locations around the area such as Mount Everest, Tibet and states in both India and Bangladesh.
This earthquake comes as no surprise to geologists and seismologists. Nepal is located between India and China in the Himalayan region. India rests on its own tectonic plate, pushing into another tectonic plate beneath Eurasia and China. As two tectonic plates are shoved towards each other, one tectonic plate rises above the other, forming mountains – it is a mark of how intense this effect is that the Himalayan region is home to what is considered the tallest mountain in the world. Sometimes, these plates jerk past each other, causing earthquakes.
What are the impacts?
What is most significant about this earthquake is the huge impact that it has had on the region – estimates say it has affected up to 6 million people. This could be due to several reasons, such as the fact that it struck right at the heart of Nepal near one of its most populated cities, the weak infrastructure of Nepalese buildings due to some complacency the past years, or the sheer strength of this particular quake. Let’s take a look at the numerous impacts it has had.
The death toll has risen from 100 to 500, from 500 to 1000, from 1000 to 1900, and from 1900 to the current estimate of above 2400 all in the space of the last 24 hours, with many suspecting that there are still more corpses to discover. At least 5000 people were injured across Nepal. Contrast this to the earthquake a few years ago in 2011 – being further away and less robust at a magntiude of 6.9, there were only 6 deaths. 50 were killed in India’s eastern states, and another 17 in an avalanche on Mount Everest, amongst them a notable Google executive and adventurer. Three were killed in Bangadesh, one due to a stampede.
Infrastructural damage: Four UNESCO World Heritage sites were horribly damaged in the earthquake as well. Dharahara Tower, a feat of architecture unique to Nepal and symbolic of its culture, also fell, taking 60 people along with it to their deaths. These are sacred pieces of history that will never be regained. Importantly, this is a blow to the tourism industry in Nepal, which no doubt will already be crippled by the earthquake – alarming, because Nepal depends much on its tourism industry.
How have we responded?
How the world reacts to this disaster will reflect on us as human beings. India has provided 43 tonnes of relief material such as tents and food and an almost 300-strong disaster response team. China has sent a rescue team of 62 personnel, 6 sniffer dogs and medical equipment. The USA notably has provided 1 million US dollars as aid to Nepal, as well as their own disaster response team. Pakistan has delivered a mobile hospital for 30 people, medical personnel, search-and-rescue teams, as well as food and shelter. UK has also fielded a rescue team, and the EU has pledged their support and aid in the future.
The world must continue to send aid. The Nepalese government has been criticised already for its slow and inadequate reaction to this disaster – yet they are not completely to blame for their incompetency, having only just emerged out of a time of political turmoil and strife, where they were preoccupied with problems other the hypothetical possibility of an earthquake. Their country is weak economically, and will suffer from this disaster greatly. Let us all hope for the best.
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