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A Report on Earthquake in Nepal

by Tilottam Paudel

Background :

Nepal, a landlocked country, has its own history of earthquake. Earthquake, one of the most dangerous natural disasters is being experienced by various people in various places. Nepal is a seismic prone country and the risk it faces from earthquakes is very high. The main reason behind earthquake in Nepal is that 45 million years ago, the Indian continent collided into Southern Tibet. The Indian continent is driven under Tibet, pushing lightweight sediments upwards and thus the formation of the Himalayas. Nepal sits across the boundary between India and southern Tibet which are still moving towards each other by 2 meters per century. This movement creates pressure within the Earth, which builds up and can only be released through earthquakes. This is the only way earthquakes happen in Nepal.

Seismicity Map

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Past records have shown that Nepal can expect two earthquakes of magnitude 7.5-8 on the Richter scale every forty years and one earthquake of magnitude of 8+ in Richter scale every eighty years. According to research there are around 92 fault lines which results earthquake in Nepal. And also in the list of most danger country of earthquake, Nepal is in the 11th position as well as the city in which there will be more human casualties, Nepal is in 1st position.

Recorded Historical Earthquakes in Nepal

  • 1310 BS / 1255 AD The first recorded earthquake in history of Nepal took place on June 7, 1255 AD. One third of the total population of Kathmandu were killed including Abahya Malla , the King of Kathmandu valley , numerous buildings and temples of the valley were entirely destroyed while many of them were severely damaged, the magnitude of the earthquake is said to be around 7.7 in Richter scale.
  • 1316BS/ 1260 AD Next recorded big earthquake after 1255 AD was during the reign of King Jayadev Malla, many buildings and temples collapsed and many more were severely damaged, Although the exact number of fatalities cannot be confirmed still we know from the facts that there was a heavy loss of live resulting from the earthquakes and from the subsequent epidemic and famine said to be widespread which arose from the aftermath of the disaster.
  • 1463BS/ 1408AD The month August or September of this year saw another major earthquake hit the valley of Kathmandu and the surrounding areas, during the reign of king Shyam singh. The temple of Rato Matchendranath was completely destroyed while many other temples and buildings collapsed and were damaged. Cracks on land appeared in many places. There was a heavy loss of lives and livestock.
  • 1737BS/ 1681 AD Either on the month of December or January, during the reign King Sri Niwas Malla, another major earthquake said to hit Nepal and the Kathmandu valley. Although very little information is available on this particular earthquake, there was heavy loss lives as well as many buildings including temples were either damaged or destroyed.
  • 1767 AD In months of June and July another significant earthquake seemed to have hit Nepal. Twenty one shocks and aftershocks of this particular earthquake is said to have occurred in a span of twenty four hours. No written or verbal records survive to indicate any human loss or the magnitude of sufferings and damages caused.
  • 1866 BS/ 1810 AD During the reign of King Girban Yudha Bikram Shah in the months of May or June twenty one shocks of earthquakes in total were felt in Nepal. Although the loss in human lives and cattle were limited, many houses, building and some temples were either destroyed or damaged.
  • 1880 BS / 1823AD Seventeen earthquake tremors of various magnitudes were felt in the region of Katmandu valley but these shocks probably were smaller relative to the past earthquakes as there was no report of loss of human lives or livestock.
  • 1890 BS/ 1833 AD During the reign King Rajendra Bikram Shah on the months of August or September, Two major strikes were experienced in the Kathmandu valley. The first one was felt in around 6 pm and the second one was around 11 pm at night when most of the valley people were already in their beds. Houses, temples, public shelters collapsed. The tower of Dharahara was also severely damaged. The towns of Thimi and Bhaktapur took the brunt of the disaster severely damaging the housing facilities, roads network and various temples. Many building and temples were utterly destroyed. 4214 houses were said to have collapsed within Kathmandu Valley and in totality over 18000 houses collapsed all over the country.
  • 1891 BS/ 1834 AD Four major earthquakes were felt in the months of June and July. These earthquakes destroyed or damaged many buildings and temples. However, the extent of damage was much less than the previous ones (i.e., 1833 event). Since there was a lot of rain which commenced and ended with the earthquakes the search and rescue operations were severely hampered. The Bagmati River was over flooded and a bridge over the river also swept away. The crops planted near the banks of the rivers were also swept away. There are no records of human or livestock casualties.
  • 1990 BS/ 1934 AD Magh (January- February) Earthquake, Known as Great Nepal Bihar Earthquake struck the Kingdom of Nepal and its surrounding areas around 2 pm on the 16th of January. The magnitude of the earthquake was 8.4 on the Richter scale.

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Casualty figures were highest for any recorded earthquake in the history of Nepal. In total 8519 people lost their lives in Nepal, A total of 126355 houses were severely damaged and around 80893 buildings were completely destroyed. Total money spent from the earthquake relief fund was NRs 206500 inside Kathmandu valley only. Earthquake relief fund was established by the king, loans were provided for earthquake effected people and earthquake volunteers groups were formed.

  • 2031BS/1974AD One building destroyed in Central region Nuwakot
  • 2037BS/1980AD 6.5 richter scale, far western region mostly affected – Baitadi, Bajhang, Darchula, 125 people dead, 248 seriously injured, 11,604 buildings destroyed, 13,414 buildings damaged, heavy loss of livestock
  • 2045BS/1988AD Udayapur Earthquake, Eastern Development Region mostly affected and some parts of Central Development region affected, 721 deaths, 6553 people injured, 64174 private buildings, 468 public houses, 790 government buildings damaged, 1566 live stocks, 22 districts of eastern Nepal affected, Total direct loss of 5 billion rupees, loan given by World Bank NRs. 1 billion.
  • 2050BS/1993AD Central region and Mid Western region affected, 1 person dead, 11 injured, 72 houses destroyed, 451 buildings damaged, loss of 48.39 million rupees
  • 2051BS/1994AD Mid Western Region affected, injured people 12, affected 623, houses destroyed 84,287 buildings damaged, Loss of 16.35 million rupees
  • 2052BS/1995AD Mid Western Region- Dailekh affected, 18 people affected, 4 houses destroyed, loss of 1.02 million rupees
  • 2054BS/1997AD Central region and Far Western region mostly affected, some parts of eastern region, and western region also affected, 1 person injured, 1489 affected, 196 houses destroyed, 60 buildings damaged, loss of 51.29 million rupees
  • 2058BS/2001AD Far Western region and some parts of Western and Central regions affected, 2 dead, 3 houses destroyed, loss of 1.32 million rupees
  • 2059BS/2002AD Mostly Mohatarri of Central region affected, 41 injured
  • 2060BS/2003AD Syangja of Western Region affected, 1 dead, 2 injured

The last great earthquake to strike Nepal was in 1934 which had a magnitude of 8.3 Richter. It caused considerable damage to buildings along with great loss of lives. Since then, the population in Nepal has skyrocketed urban development, unplanned and construction practices have deteriorated.
(National society for Earthquake Technology Nepal- NSET ; Seismic Hazard Mapping and Risk Assessment for Nepal, UNDP/ UNCHS (Habitat) Subproject)

Sunday, 18th September 2011 Earthquake in Nepal and Sikkim

Recently on 18th September, 2011, another earthquake came with a magnitude of 6.9 Richter. The epicentre was between the border of Taplejung, eastern Nepal, and the Indian state of Sikkim. The quake was followed by 130 after-shocks on Sunday and Monday, the highest measuring 6.1 and 5.3 magnitudes on the Richter scale, according to reports. The tremor lasted nearly a minute and it was felt in most parts of the country. This is the strongest quake to hit the country in 78 yrs. 

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The true extent of the damage to life and property caused by Sunday’s earthquake is starting to become clear as reports come in drove from across the country. It appears that eastern Nepal took the brunt of the strongest quake to hit the country in 78 years as the epicentre was in the Indian state of Sikkim, which borders Nepal’s easternmost hilly district Taplejung. (nepalnews.com)

As of writing this report, the total number of death is not exact as there are many reports yet to come. There is the report of hundreds of injuries, many serious, and countless of houses and property damaged.

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Development Committee, Red Cross, and Armed Police Force base camp were also damaged in Sunday’s quake. Around five hundreds houses were destroyed after the quake. Mostly the school buildings, health post and police stations were damaged. According to the report 150 schools were damaged in which 50 schools were from Taplejung district alone, the nearest district to Sikkim. Likewise around 600 families in Illam and Pancthar districts have been rendered homeless by the quake. District Education Office, Ilam said over 50 schools suffered damage and classes in many schools have been halted due to the destruction. The earthquake also has damaged the main building, kitchen, hostel and library of the Jyalsa monastery at Salleri, the headquarters of Solukhumbu district. The monastery has archaeological importance. Similarly, Landslip has occurred in Taplejung in the aftermath of the quake. Reports also say government’s rescue effort has been affected as some 40 police stations in eight eastern Nepal districts have been partially destroyed. Electricity and phone services also remain halted in many districts in the region.

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Likewise, among the deaths reported in Kathmandu valley, three people died in the Capital after the compound wall of the British Embassy at Lainchaur collapsed in the aftermath of the quake. On the basis of report altogether 104 people died in India, Nepal and Tibet due to the earthquake. Its number is expected to increase because rescue workers are still hoping to find buried survivors under collapsed buildings, but many fears that the death toll will continue to rise over the next few days.

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There is difficult for rescue because both the Sikkim and north-eastern part of Nepal are much undeveloped, hilly, mountainous areas where there is no facility of airport, easy transportation and is far from the cities areas with hard communication and the climate is also not good in that places.

national newspapers websites

Government support for quake victims

The government has announced a relief package for the families of those killed and injured in the 6.8 magnitude-quake that jolted much of the country, especially eastern Nepal, on Sunday evening.

A meeting of Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee (CNDRC) presided by home minister Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar on Monday decided to direct all district-level natural disaster rescue committees to provide Rs 100,000 to the families of those who died in the earthquake as an immediate relief.

Similarly, the CNDRC, as per Prime Minister´s instruction, decided to urge Prime Minister Natural Disaster Rescue Fund to provide Rs 100,000 each to the families of the deceased. A meeting of the CNDRC also decided to provide free of cost treatment to all those injured in the earthquake. The CNDRC also asked district-level committees to furnish the details of damages caused by the quake in three days.

Similarly, the British Embrassy, in a statement deeply regretted the deaths and injuries to others as a result of the collapse. "The ambassador offered his condolences to the local community on Sunday evening and met with relatives of the victims on Monday morning," the statement issued by the embassy said. "The embassy will continue to do everything possible to help the local community and the government of Nepal. Relatives of deceased in British Embassy for compensation

According to Kantipur newspaper of Thursday, relief distribution to Sunday’s earthquake victims in the eastern hilly districts is going on at a snail’s pace. In Taplejung—where the earthquake caused extensive damage—the task of relief distribution and damage assessment started on Wednesday, beginning from Dokhu and Thechambu VDCs.

In the first phase of the relief distribution, the District Administration Office (DAO) and Nepal Red Cross are providing Rs 5,000 along with tarp, blankets and utensils to families whose houses were destroyed in the earthquake.

Relief distribution has progressed in Panchthar, four days after the earthquake ravaged scores of houses in the district. The District Natural Disaster Relief and Rescue Committee has mobilised its personnel in all the 41 VDCs of the district. However, they are yet to begin relief distribution. Only a few families in the district headquarters have received the relief so far.

Acting Chief District Officer Laxmi Kharel said they do not have enough funds to provide relief materials to all the victims. He said each team will be able to provide relief materials to only five families in one VDC. A Nepal Red Cross official said they can provide for only 116 families in the district. “There are more than 400 families in need of relief materials in one VDC alone,” he said.

In Ilam, the earthquake displaced around 1,000 families. Many families are from rural areas of the district and they are yet to receive relief materials. Meanwhile, the families rendered homeless by the quake have complained that the monetary assistance provided by the administration is not enough. Displaced family compelled to live under the open sky.

Risk of earthquakes in Nepal
smh.com.au (The Sydney morning herald)

With rescue work still under way in Nepal after Sunday’s deadly earthquake in the Himalayas, scientists have warned that the capital Kathmandu is a high-risk city unprepared for the next "Big One". Experts say Kathmandu is one of the most vulnerable cities in the world with an overdue earthquake predicted to kill tens of thousands of people and leave survivors cut off from international aid.

British geologist Dave Petley described the latest tremor, which killed eight people in Nepal, as a "wake-up call" for the overcrowded capital, home to two million people and connected to the outside world by just three roads and one airport runway.

"The main area of concern is in central and west Nepal, where there has not been a large earthquake for a long period," Petley said after Sunday’s 6.9-magnitude quake damaged hundreds of homes in the east of the country.

"This is an earthquake-prone area, so this suggests that there is a large amount of energy stored," he said.

Nepal is a highly seismic region, lying above the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates that created the Himalayas, and major earthquakes have hit the Kathmandu Valley every 75 years on average over recent centuries. One quake destroyed a quarter of homes in Kathmandu 77 years ago, and geologists believe the area is at immediate risk of an 8.0-magnitude tremor - ten times the size of last year’s Haiti quake which killed more than 225,000 people.

Downtown Kathmandu is a maze of narrow, winding roads where rickshaws and cars jostle with cows to squeeze past dilapidated clay, brick and timber houses. The building stock is not seismically strengthened ; suggesting that in a big earthquake there will be large numbers of building collapses. GeoHazards International, a US-based research group, has measured the likely death toll from a quake of 6.0 magnitude or higher hitting cities in Asia and the Americas.

Kathmandu topped the list of 21 cities with 69,000 potential deaths, ahead of Istanbul and New Delhi.

The Kathmandu Valley has experienced rapid, uncontrolled urbanization in the past few years and the lack of infrastructure and deep-rooted poverty leaves it desperately under-prepared for an earthquake, experts say. Building codes are rarely enforced, few emergency drills are carried out, and the fact that Kathmandu lies on the site of a prehistoric lake filled with soft sediment also exacerbates the risk.

The one single-runway airport and all three access roads would likely be destroyed in a major quake, meaning the city could be stranded. GeoHazards president Brian Tucker said researchers had compared the probability of a child in Kathmandu dying because an earthquake destroyed a school with the probability of the same situation in Tokyo. "The child in Kathmandu was 400 times more likely to die. This inequity is intolerable," he said.

The National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET), established after a 6.5-magnitude tremor killed more than 700 people in eastern Nepal in 1988, has launched a program to make school buildings more quake-resistant.

According to NSET, if a 7.0-magnitude quake hit Kathmandu, 200,000 people would die, another 200,000 would be severely injured, 1.5 million would be made homeless and 60 per cent of homes would be destroyed.

Concern of Jagriti Child and Youth Concern Nepal (JCYCN)

Though the government know the risk of the earthquakes in Nepal, Sunday’s quake proved that the government is not fully prepared to respond a mega disaster and people lack awareness about earthquake safety measures. The government capability to control disasters and conduct rescue operations is inadequate. Due to this quake mostly children are affected. According to the report also the number of children died in quake is higher than adults. Similarly, due to the lack of awareness and preparations many people were injured. Most incidents occurred due to fear and without any knowledge. That is why JCYCN as a non-governmental, non-profit making organization wants to help at the places affected by earthquake. JCYCN is likely to :

  • support in educational sector as in eastern Nepal many school buildings has been damaged by the Sunday’s quake. Mostly school children are terrified with such attack. They need a proper education on this.
  • provide awareness programs in schools and communities about earthquake safety measures.
  • provide food, medicine, cloths, stationary and other necessary things to mostly affected earthquake victims.
  • organize trainings for youths, individuals, organizations on earthquake preparedness to raise general earthquake awareness.
  • provide awareness about the requirement of earthquake resistance house.
  • prepare for the emergency services, first aids as well as prepare a large number of volunteers for the urgent situations.

From Sunday’s earthquake we have learnt a lesson that we cannot predict quakes. But we should accept that we are living in a seismic region that is highly active, and the major jolt can strike anytime without any warning. So for that we have to remain prepared form earlier. This time neither the government has any emergency services nor other organizations has. JCYCN is aware of this and has planned to be preparing for it.

To sum up, natural disasters are dangerous and disasters like earthquakes cannot be controlled and avoided. Such quakes have many chances to come in Nepal again. We should be careful and prepare ourselves mentally and physically. Sunday’s earthquake has become a challenge for the government and citizens. It has been very difficult to rescue and to provide relief packages for the victims. Hundreds of people died, thousands houses damaged, thousands families displaced in Nepal, India and Tibet. Keeping in mind that there is no other religion greater than humanity, we should be ready to help others in such situations nationally and internationally.

Prepared by : Sheetal Subedi and Tilottam Paudel


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