Nepal: The Big One?

jrholliday's picture

Jason Overdorf from GlobalPost recently wrote that a catastrophic earthquake in Nepal could unleash devastation surpassing that of Haiti or Chile.

KATHMANDU, Nepal — When disaster specialist Amod Dixit looks out his window in Kathmandu, he sees collapsed bridges, demolished hospitals, schools reduced to rubble and dusty corpses lying in the street, the nightmare of Port-au-Prince revisited on his Himalayan home.

“Unfortunately, that is the reality (of what we are facing), if not worse,” said Dixit. “If Kathmandu is impacted with a shaking of an intensity IX on the Mercalli intensity scale, the aftermath is going to be much worse than in Haiti.”

Unlike the more commonly known Richter scale, which measures the magnitude of an earthquake at its epicenter, the Mercalli scale measures the intensity of shaking in specific locations — basically by measuring the destruction of buildings and natural structures.

Dixit has every reason to be worried. The climax of the collision between tectonic plates that thrust up the Himalayas, Nepal is criss-crossed by geologic fault lines — some of which have been building up pressure for centuries. Even if it happens 185 miles away, an earthquake that measures 6 or 7 in magnitude on the Richter scale at its epicenter could generate level VIII, IX or even X level shaking on the Mercalli scale in Kathmandu.

The entire article can be found here.

Using the Hazard Viewer tool, we can quickly verify that Nepal is surrounded by seismic activity, so an earthquake within 185 miles (~300 km) of Kathmandu is not unlikely.

This emphasizes the importance of preparation and hazard mitigation.  By acting now, when awareness of future risk is high, the impact of a future events can be lessened. Quoting Robert Piper, the head of the United Nations' humanitarian effort in Nepal: "[We can't] save every life.  But if we retrofit all the schools, if we fix the hospitals, if we shift the bridges, if we put water sources in where people are going to be evacuated ... we're going to have an impact."


Isabel00's picture

A detailed weather report of Nepal with the help of maps and graphs showed in this article. I found a lot of reviews of which have good piece of information regarding the mentioned topic. I would like to say great thankd for this sound impressive effort.

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