October 19, 2010
The earthquake that shook the Kathmandu Valley in the wee hours of Monday morning (at 1:55 a.m. Nepal Standard Time) had its epicenter in China's Xizang-Nepal border region, according United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The quake occurred at 4:11:20 a.m. local time at the epicenter (28.535°N, 85.668°E), which lies 95 km in the north from Kathmandu, was measured 4.9 on the Richter Scale.
Nepal has experienced many earthquake disasters over the years.
The last major earthquake to hit Nepal was in 1934, when almost 20,000 people were killed. It is estimated, that over 17,000 of these fatalities occurred within the first minute of the earthquake. Additionally, over 25% of residential homes in Nepal were lost and a number of great landmarks and national treasures were destroyed.
Kathmandu, Nepal ranked first in GeoHazards International's study of 'Cities Vulnerable to Earthquake', followed by Istanbul, Turkey; Delhi, India; Quito, Ecuador; Manila, Philippines; and Islambad/Rawalpindi, Pakistan--all of which could expect fatalities in the tens of thousands if disaster struck.
One only has to walk the streets and narrow alleyways of Kathmandu to see the danger awaiting its inhabitants.
In Nepal, as in many other countries, it is not usually the earthquake itself which results in the high number of casualties but instead, the poor reinforcement of buildings in Nepal. Consequently, most people are killed when their homes collapse on them during the earthquake.
Adding to the high fatality figures in Nepal is the inaccessibility of some villages and hence the difficulty that emergency services may have reaching and rescuing people.
In addition to the issues mentioned above, it is also notable that Kathmandu (the capital city of Nepal) has only two main roads routed towards medical facilities and only one runway. Consequently, any disruption, damage or blockage of these roads could easily have devastating consequences. Other issues identified are that the people of Nepal have not been educated in respect to earthquakes, buildings have often been put up in great quantity without regulations (and without consideration of the importance of earthquake building prevention in the building plans) and finally that the population of Nepal has increased significantly. Kathmandu continues to increase by 6.5% every year.
A massive and significant earthquake prevention program is needed to be strictly reinforced and adhered to if lives are to be saved.
Unfortunately, the current political situation in Nepal leaves little room for concentrating on the crucial issue of improving infrastructure or addressing the safety of its common citizens.
As Nepalis recoup from Dashain, their biggest religious festival - symbolizing the victory of good over evil - the nation ironically remains gripped by instability and pessimism as the warring political parties have spent their energy protecting themselves and failed to elect – for a record-breaking 12th time (as of October 10) – a new prime minister. A 13th round has been announced for Oct 26, but there is little hope for a breakthrough.
One can only hope that is doesn’t take a major catastrophe, like the 1934 earthquake, to wake up Nepal’s political leaders and remind them that government exists to create a safe environment for its people – not individual political power.
The best link to current earthquake data – worldwide – is: