Disaster Scenarios for Risk-Informed Planning
Scenarios of a plausible earthquake quantify impacts, including more than 50% of schools damaged, and guide communities to reduce extreme risk before a disaster.
In Musikot, mid-west Nepal, buildings lack earthquake resistant features. Photo: Janise Rodgers
A very large earthquake threatens to rupture beneath westernmost Nepal--it is geologically inevitable, a matter of “when” rather than “if”. This would cause widespread collapse of homes, schools, and health facilities because buildings are not yet earthquake resistant. Thousands of people, including children at school, would be injured or killed.
The intense shaking would trigger hundreds of simultaneous landslides that block roads in the rugged hills. This could isolate rural families for a long time. Extensive damages to water supply, communications and power systems would create further hardship.
These details come to life in a realistic scenario that GeoHazards International created to motivate change. Our goal is to help people understand specific consequences of a major earthquake, if it were to happen today, and to take action now that will improve resilience.
The Himalayan Thrust fault that underlies Nepal can generate powerful earthquakes. Earth scientists raise concern about westernmost Nepal, because seismic energy has been building ever since a big earthquake 500 years ago. (Other sections of the fault have ruptured and relieved strain more recently.)
Children crossing over a hanging bridge.
We created scenarios for three districts, and their headquarter municipalities, in Karnali and Sudurpashchim Provinces: Amargadhi, Dadeldhura; Musikot, Rukum (West); and Jayaprithivi, Bajhang. A storyline follows local characters and includes practical lessons to prepare. Appendices contain detailed technical findings that will be of interest to local scientists and engineers, government agencies, and officials.
For each earthquake scenario, we incorporated data on the types and number of local buildings and bridges, calculated damages from the scenario shaking, and estimated casualties. We included insights from seasoned professionals and those in charge of local disaster management, roads, power, communications, schools, hospitals, and municipal water. We quantified likely landslides, and mapped landslide hazards on access roads to the districts.
Action plans that resulted can serve as models for use by other districts that face similar risk.
Then we brought together local leaders and partner organizations again to develop action plans that would reduce the consequences. They learned what needs to be done and why. They took ownership of tasks. And to ensure that local professionals can sustain important reforms, we trained engineers and masons in skills they need to make safer buildings and roads.
GeoHazards International is providing much needed technical guidance and actionable information at a critical time. Under Nepal’s new constitution and federal system, local jurisdictions have new responsibility to manage safe growth and disaster response.
These efforts to increase earthquake resilience in Nepal are part of the Promoting Agriculture, Health and Alternative Livelihoods (PAHAL) program, a large, multi-sector, food security program overseen by Mercy Corps and made possible by the generous support of the American people and USAID.
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