Sun, 09 Aug, 2020

Is Nepal Prone to Earthquakes?

By Bijaya Kumar Shrestha

Photo: Nepal Earthquake 2015 Photo Courtesy: http://edition.cnn.com/

Nepal is a landlocked, seismic prone country and the earthquake risk is very high. Geologists say, “The main reason behind earthquake in Nepal is that before 45 million years, the Indian continent plate collided into Southern Tibet plate and had driven under Tibet, forming high Himalayas. This movement created pressure within the Earth and can be released only through earthquakes.” Nepal has its own history of earthquakes, one of the most dangerous natural disasters. Nepal is experiencing earthquakes with epicenter at different places. But still, Nepali people do not realize that Nepal is among the high risk countries in terms of earthquake occurrences. Nepal has eleventh position in the list of most dangerous countries for earthquakes, and Kathmandu is the number one city with the possibility of maximum human casualties.

Different historical records show that Nepal experienced its first earthquake in Ashad, 1218 B.S.  As the richter scale was not discovered, this earthquake does not have exact magnitude record. But evaluating the destruction, it is supposed to be of 7.7 richter scale. King Abhaya Malla was also killed including about one third of the population in Kathmandu Valley during the quake. Many buildings and temples were entirely destroyed and damaged.

Next recorded earthquake was in 1316 B.S. during the rule of King Jayadev Malla. Though the magnitude of the earthquake and exact fatalities are not recorded, there were heavy loss of lives and property.

During the period of King Shyam Singh, in 1463 B.S, Nepal was hit by another destructive earthquake. Many cracks had appeared on the land then. Rato Machhindranath temple was completely destroyed, with the loss of many lives, livestock and buildings.

After around 300 years, during the kingship of King Sriniwas Malla, Nepal experienced another earthquake in 1737 BS. Kathmandu was the epicenter of this earthquake and King Sriniwas Malla was injured. There is no recorded magnitude of the earthquake but there was heavy loss.

Again in 1824 B.S, Nepal was hit by yet another significant earthquake. There are not any written records to indicate any human loss, damages caused and magnitude. But it is said that 21 aftershocks of this particular earthquake occurred in twenty four hours.

In 1866 B.S. during the reign of King Girban Yudha Bikram Shah, many shocks of earthquakes were felt in Nepal. It is said that there was less loss of human lives and cattle but many houses and temples were destroyed.

During the same century, 17 earthquakes of various magnitudes were felt in Nepal. As there were no report of loss of human lives, livestock and property, these shocks were believed to be smaller in comparison to the past earthquakes.

In the reign of King Rajendra Bikram Shah, in the month of Bhadra, 1890 BS, Nepal experienced two major blows at 6 pm and 11 pm of the day. These blows were both of about 7.8 magnitudes, centered at North East region of Kathmandu. Many people had spent nights in Tundikhel and kings and his family in Bhandarkhal. Many buildings, temples were destroyed. Specially Thimi, Bhaktapur, Sankhu, Banepa suffered huge impact. This earthquake totally broke down one of the two Daraharas and damaged the next. It is recorded that around 4500 houses of valley and 13500 houses outside the valley collapsed with the loss of about 500 human lives. Again, after a month, Nepal was hit by next earthquake. This destroyed remaining structures and killed lives adding more to the loss of previous quake.

After around a year, Nepal again experienced four major earthquakes in the month of Ashad during the rainy season. The search and rescue operations were severely hampered due to rain. The Bagmati River was over-flooded and a bridge over the river and the crops planted near the banks of river were swept away.

In the earthquake history, Nepal was hit by the most destructive earthquake on 2nd of Magh, in 1990 B.S. at around 2 pm, during the ruling of King Tribhuvan Bikram Shah. The magnitude of the earthquake was 8.4 on the richter scale which is the highest ever recorded in Nepal. In total, 8519 people lost their lives and around 95,000 people were injured. A total of 126355 houses were severely damaged and around 80893 buildings were completely destroyed. Around 700,000 people were made homeless. Total money spent from the earthquake relief fund was NRs. 206500, only inside Kathmandu valley. Kathmandu was almost completely destroyed. Half part of the Darahara was broken down. Ghantaghar was damaged. Cracks had appeared on land. About 95% sources of water dried and 50% bridges were broken down.

Another earthquake was in 2031 BS. It did not cause more damage. Only one building was reported to have been destroyed in Nuwakot during the earthquake. Nuwakot was the epicentre of the earthquake.

In 2037 B.S. another earthquake of 6.5 magnitude affected the far western region of Nepal, centered at Bajhang. Some of the districts like Baitadi, Bajhang, and Darchula were highly impacted by the quake. This earthquake resulted in 125 losses of lives, injuries in 248 people, destruction of 11604 buildings, and some damage in 13414 buildings. It reported heavy loss of livestock as well.

Early in the morning at around 5 am on 5th of Bhadra 2045, Nepal was hit by another powerful earthquake of 6.7 richter scale. This is also known as Udayapur Earthquake which mainly affected the Eastern Development Region and some parts of Central Development Region. The center was at Murkuchi, Udayapur. It killed 721 people, injured 6553 people, damaged 64174 private buildings, 468 public houses, and 790 government buildings. Nepal had to bear direct loss of 5 billion rupees.

The earthquake of 2050 BS mostly affected the Central and Mid Western Region. It killed 1 person, injured 11 and it destroyed 72 houses with a loss of 48.39 million rupees.

Next earthquake in the Mid Western region in 2051 B.S. was not fatal but injured 12 people. Earthquake in 2052 B.S. centered in Mid Western Region- Dailekh, was also non fatal but the earthquake in 2054 BS in Central and Far Western region injured 1 person, destroyed 196 houses, brought some damage to 60 houses, and resulted in the loss of 51.29 million rupees.

The earthquake of 2058 B.S. in Far Western region and some parts of Western and Central regions left 2 dead and destroyed 3 houses. The earthquake of 2059 BS injured 41 people, mostly from Mahotari district of Central Region. In 2060 BS, earthquake affected Syangja and killed 1 and injured 2.

After around eight years Nepal had to suffer from another earthquake of 6.9 richter scale on Aswin 1st, in 2068 B.S., centered at Asam. It killed 5 people and injured more than 27. Now, in 2072, Baishak 12 at around 12 noon, Saturday, Nepal was hit by next powerful earthquake of 7.9 richter scale centered at Barpak village of Gorkha district. Till date, we have been experiencing more than 100 aftershocks. Around 8500 people have already lost their lives and detail impact report is yet to come. Moreover, the result is in front of your eyes and I have no words to write about it.

Here are some pictures showing disasters caused by the latest quake in Nepal.

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Though we have realized possible effects of earthquake on the population and property, we were not serious about it.

History shows that earthquake occurs very frequently in Nepal. Past records indicate 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. It is reported that the people living in the valley is 200 times more at risk than people living in Kobe, Japan. It is because the land of Kathmandu valley is made up of soft sediments which magnify the shaking during the earthquake. This water saturated soil has less ability to support structures.

Finally, think before the earthquake, stay safe during the earthquake and support after the earthquake. 

Information Courtesy: National Seismological Association Photo Courtesy: Bijaya Kumar Shrestha