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Reacting to Nepal's Earthquake with a View to the Future

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

In the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake, many people contacted GeoHazards International for insights. I am writing today to describe GHI’s work in Nepal, share our current plans, and ask that you support us in tomorrow’s second annual Silicon Valley Gives.

Having worked in Nepal, I reacted to news of the April 25 earthquake with intense, conflicting emotions: nausea at seeing losses we calculated become flesh and blood; pride that our work was solid and strategic; satisfaction that our efforts may have saved some lives; and guilt that we didn't do more.

GHI’s work in Nepal: GHI began partnering in the mid 1990s with the National Society of Earthquake Technology – Nepal (NSET), then a fledgling nonprofit, to address Kathmandu Valley's high earthquake risk. We developed a scenariothat described expected impacts if a M8.1 earthquake, a repeat of Nepal's 1934 event, were to strike modern Kathmandu. With sixty local stakeholders and international earthquake professionals, we developed an Action Plan to reduce the predicted death and destruction.This became the focus of NSET, which now employs more than 100 people who promote building standards, boost local skills to manage risk, and retrofit schools.

With NSET well established, GHI focuses in other areas, though we recently worked to assess hospital disaster readiness in Nepal.

GHI’s plans in Nepal: In response to last week’s earthquake, GHI will assist NSET in any way they request. Our role will support long-range improvements to ensure safe buildings and development in Kathmandu, because the Himalaya region will have other large earthquakes. We will have more details when the recovery phase begins.

Staying ahead of the next big earthquake: As we support Nepal’s recovery, we know that earthquakes of this magnitude will just as surely come to communities in Bhutan and north India. Our current projects in neighbor countries are strengthening schools and health facilities, and boosting local technical capacities. We also hope to widely introduce an “earthquake-strong” desk, invented by colleagues in Israel. Millions of children continue to risk their lives in seismically unsafe schools. To put the need in perspective, a reported 5,000 schools were severely damaged in Nepal. Thankfully the earthquake struck on Saturday when schools were empty. This small stroke of fortune cannot allow us to be complacent.

Learn more about GHI’s work in Nepal and view recent news stories. Following the earthquake, GHI was profiled in the New York Times.


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