Safety Lessons from Nepal Quake

The latest earthquake that hit Nepal resulting in over 15,000 casualties once again brings to the fore the crucial issue of taking utmost care of the ever-fragile environment. Yes, the Nepal tragedy is yet another eye-opener to the catastrophic consequences of disregarding nature’s warning signals and not learning lessons from experiences.

epaselect epa04721304 The damage at Nepalese heritage site Syambhunaath Stupa, also known as monkey temple, after a powerful earthquake struck Nepal, in Kathmandu, Nepal, 26 April 2015. Rescue workers in Nepal scoured through mounds of rubble for earthquake survivors as the country's official death toll climbed past 2,300 and new tremors sent shocked survivors scurrying outdoors. Nepal's Interior Ministry put the confirmed death toll from 7.8-magnitude tremor at 2,352, with most of the victims reported in the capital, Kathmandu.  EPA/NARENDRA SHRESTHA

The damage at Nepalese heritage site Syambhunaath Stupa, also known as monkey temple, after a powerful earthquake struck Nepal, in Kathmandu, Nepal, 26 April 2015. Rescue workers in Nepal scoured through mounds of rubble for earthquake survivors as the country’s official death toll climbed past 2,300 and new tremors sent shocked survivors scurrying outdoors. Nepal’s Interior Ministry put the confirmed death toll from 7.8-magnitude tremor at 2,352, with most of the victims reported in the capital, Kathmandu.

There are no genuine arguments to establish that the catastrophic earthquake that hit Nepal recently was an unexpected one. Though the last major earthquake that the hit the country was in 1934, for years, the international community knew that Kathmandu was in for another major quake. The grim reality is that the country as well as the international community was not prepared enough for such a predictable catastrophe.

In a world of fast-paced urbanisation and consequent increase in the density of population, rapidly expanding informal settlements and development that outstrips a government’s ability to enforce standards, it is the poorly designed and constructed buildings and not earthquakes which are the real factors that enhance the casualties in the event of an earthquake.

In many cases, the manmade rush of urbanisation is creating the most dangerous built environments comprising unsafe multi-storey buildings, over-reliance on concrete and ignorance of the age-old technologies of seismic-resistant constructions. The pressure to meet the needs of growing populations, along with improperly implemented building regulations, can lead to lethal consequences. Examples to this are galore in history. One of the recent ones is the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China which destroyed over 7,000 schools, killing thousands of schoolchildren.

(Read the full part of this article from the June Issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2015)

Author: SubEditor

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