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Traditional stone masonry building failure due to strong earthquake shaking.

Supporting Thimphu’s Path to Safer Buildings


Location: Thimphu, Bhutan



A strong earthquake affecting Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, could cause major trouble for the entire country. This program is quantifying building damage and human losses from two plausible disasters: a regional magnitude 8 (M8) earthquake similar to Bhutan’s 1714 earthquake, and a smaller magnitude 7 earthquake centered closer to Thimphu. 

The Royal Government of Bhutan, GeoHazards International, and AIR Worldwide are modeling damage to buildings from these events. Government engineers and scientists are ensuring that the data and assumptions in the model accurately reflect conditions in Thimphu. 

With risk modeling, decision makers can evaluate how various mitigation measures, if taken in advance, could reduce Thimphu’s earthquake losses. They can direct funds toward strengthening specific building types and areas of the city most vulnerable to damage. They can also plan for efficient emergency response and disaster relief. 

These efforts to protect the capital and center of government are a major step to make the nation more resilient to its earthquake threat. The Main Himalayan Thrust fault that underlies Bhutan has not produced a major (~M8) earthquake for more than 300 years--but could do so at any time. Bhutan’s older buildings are not designed or constructed to endure such shaking. Even moderate earthquakes in 2009 and 2011 damaged hundreds of rural homes, schools, health facilities, and government buildings. 


This project is generously funded by Verisk Analytics and supported through pro-bono technical modeling work by AIR Worldwide, a Verisk Analytics company.

A common building type in Thimphu, Bhutan: Reinforced Concrete Cement (RCC) frame with outfill brick wall, which is vulnerable to earthquake damage.

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