Current event: Earthquake in Nepal
On October 2, 2023, a powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.2 struck Nepal, causing widespread damage and killing at least 300 people. The earthquake in Nepal was followed by several aftershocks, some of them as strong as magnitude 6. The epicenter of the quake was located near the border with China, about 150 km northeast of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. The quake was felt across Nepal, India, China, Bangladesh and Bhutan.
The earthquake triggered landslides and avalanches in the Himalayan region, blocking roads and hampering rescue efforts. Many buildings, including historical monuments and temples, collapsed or were damaged by the quake. The quake also disrupted power supply and communication networks in many areas. The United Nations estimated that more than 5 million people were affected by the quake, and more than 1 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance.
The earthquake was the result of the collision between the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates, which are moving towards each other at a rate of about 4 cm per year. The Indian plate is subducting under the Eurasian plate, creating stress and strain along the fault lines. When the stress exceeds the strength of the rocks, they rupture and release energy in the form of seismic waves, causing an earthquake.
The earthquake was similar to the devastating quake of April 25, 2015, which killed nearly 9,000 people and injured more than 22,000 people in Nepal. Both quakes occurred on the same fault segment, known as the Main Himalayan Thrust (MHT), which runs along the southern edge of the Himalayas. However, the 2023 quake was deeper and farther east than the 2015 quake, indicating that different parts of the MHT are breaking at different times.
The earthquake highlighted the need for better preparedness and resilience in Nepal, which is one of the most seismically active countries in the world. The country faces multiple hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, floods, droughts and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). The country also suffers from low levels of development, poverty, inequality and political instability, which make it more vulnerable to disasters.
The government of Nepal declared a state of emergency and appealed for international aid to cope with the aftermath of the quake. Several countries and organizations responded by sending rescue teams, relief materials and financial support to Nepal. The UN coordinated the humanitarian response and launched a flash appeal for $150 million to provide life-saving assistance to the affected people. The World Bank announced a $500 million package to support Nepal’s recovery and reconstruction efforts.
The earthquake also raised awareness about the importance of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) in Nepal. DRR refers to the policies and practices that aim to prevent or reduce the impact of disasters on people and assets. CCA refers to the actions that aim to reduce the vulnerability of people and systems to the effects of climate change. Both DRR and CCA are essential for enhancing Nepal’s resilience and sustainability in the face of multiple shocks and stresses.
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History of Earthquake in Nepal
Nepal, a landlocked country in South Asia, is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the boundary of two tectonic plates: the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. The collision of these plates creates stress and strain in the crust, which is released in the form of seismic waves when the rocks break along faults.
Nepal has a long history of earthquakes, dating back to 1255 A.D., when a 7.8 magnitude quake killed one-third of Kathmandu’s population, including the king. Since then, Nepal has witnessed at least one major earthquake per century, causing widespread damage and loss of lives. Some of the notable earthquakes that have occurred in Nepal are:
- 1408 A.D.: An 8.2 magnitude quake destroyed many temples and houses, and caused a large crack in the land.
- 1833 A.D.: An 8.0 magnitude quake killed 6,500 people and damaged many buildings, including the Dharahara tower and the Jagannath temple.
- 1934 A.D.: An 8.1 magnitude quake, known as the Great Nepal-Bihar earthquake, killed 10,700 to 12,000 people and destroyed most of Kathmandu’s historical monuments.
- 1980 A.D.: A 6.5 magnitude quake killed 200 people and injured many more in Pithoragarh district.
- 1988 A.D.: A 6.9 magnitude quake killed 1,091 people and injured over 6,000 in eastern Nepal and northern India.
- 2011 A.D.: A 6.9 magnitude quake killed 111 people and injured over 600 in Sikkim and neighbouring areas.
- 2015 A.D.: A series of quakes, starting with a 7.8 magnitude one on April 25, killed 8,857 people and displaced millions. The quakes also triggered landslides and avalanches in the Himalayas.
On October 3, 2023, Nepal experienced a series of four powerful earthquakes in a span of just one hour, sending tremors through northern India and triggering a massive flash flood in Sikkim. The largest earthquake recorded was 6.3 on the Richter scale, with its epicentre at the Talkot area of Bajhang district, 700 km west of Kathmandu. The earthquake was followed by three aftershocks of magnitude 4.9, 4.8 and 4.5, all within 15 minutes.
The earthquakes caused widespread damage and panic in Nepal, especially in the western districts of Bajhang, Baitadi and Darchula, where many houses collapsed and roads cracked. According to the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC), at least six people were killed and 11 injured in the quake. The death toll could rise as rescue teams reach remote areas. The government has deployed security forces and helicopters to assist the affected people.
The earthquakes also triggered landslides and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) in the Himalayan region, affecting neighbouring India. A GLOF is a sudden release of water from a glacial lake due to various factors such as melting ice, heavy rainfall or seismic activity. In Sikkim, a GLOF from the South Lhonak Lake near the Nepal-China border caused a flash flood in the Teesta river, sweeping away bridges, roads and houses along its banks. The flood also disrupted power supply and communication networks in the state.
The Nepal earthquakes have raised concerns about the seismic vulnerability of the region, which is still recovering from the devastating 2015 earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people and displaced millions. Experts have warned that more earthquakes are likely to occur in the future as the tectonic plates continue to move and accumulate stress. Therefore, it is important to enhance disaster preparedness and resilience among the people and authorities, as well as to improve building codes and infrastructure standards.