Recent earthquakes shown in red in Bajhang (far left) and Jajarkot (center left). Our new school construction and mason training location is shown in yellow. Our 2018 earthquake scenarios for 3 districts are shown in blue.
People in westernmost Nepal recently experienced damaging earthquakes – two on the same day in Bajhang district in October, and one in Jajarkot district in November. Our engineer, Dinesh Joshi, who lives in this part of Nepal, was less than 100 miles from the epicenters. He felt the earthquakes and is safe, although quite concerned about the next one.
These earthquakes were not nearly as strong as what could happen. Scientists know that an earthquake greater than M8.0 is possible, as happened in this part of Nepal over 500 years ago. (The recent earthquakes were smaller.) Municipalities are growing rapidly, earthquake awareness is low, and earthquake-resistant construction practices are not typically applied. Landslide risk is also very high and is particularly concerning with earthquake shaking, as it can trigger hundreds of simultaneous landslides, isolating this already remote area. This is why we’ve been working here since 2016.
The recent earthquakes opened a window of opportunity to accelerate awareness and action. With this in mind, Dinesh visited Bajhang to explore how we can support mitigation and preparedness. He met with officials from government, schools, and hospitals. They are motivated to plan for long-term disaster resilience, whereas their prior planning focused on immediate relief and recovery. They stressed the need for trainings on earthquake-resistant construction for engineers and masons, along with building regulations for municipalities in rural settings.
Dinesh reports that many buildings in Bajhang are damaged, but buildings with structural bands had better performance. People noticed the safer features. The new hospital, school, and public health buildings are partially damaged. A similar magnitude earthquake in the future could severely damage these already weakened buildings.
Buildings damaged in the Bajhang earthquake. Many homes and schools are constructed of unreinforced stone masonry. This is the most lethal building type in a strong earthquake, prone to collapse or severe damage. Photo: Dinesh Joshi
We are in the midst of planning additional field visits and interviews to gain firsthand knowledge of impacts, recovery progress, and the challenges that the affected communities face. This information will help us develop technical support that is informed by local needs.
Our efforts in the region
This part of Nepal is rural, though municipalities are growing fast, and districts are in dire need of addressing the high risk. This is why our team is advising local decision makers on actions that will lead to safer communities.
You can see more about our past and ongoing programs at these links:
The Path Forward, video of school child and the risks and challenges he faces from natural hazards.
Training to construct safer schools, because schoolchildren are at very high risk.
Earthquake and landslide scenarios for 3 highly vulnerable districts: Bajhang, Dadeldhura, and Rukum-West, to be used for awareness and risk-informed planning. Recommendations for safer buildings, roads, health facilities and schools; resilient communications, water and power systems; and efficient response are included.
Training for masons, including women, because building better requires a cadre of trained masons. Women are most likely to apply the techniques in their communities.
Thank you for caring and helping us to work alongside Nepali people at this challenging time. Building resilience now can protect hundreds of thousands of lives in the future.
We will send another update as we get a clearer picture of on-the-ground needs and how we can help support.
Veronica Cedillos, President and CEO
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