Devastating earthquake strikes Nepal
On Saturday, April 25, a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rattled Nepal near its capital of Kathmandu, killing at least 7,000 people, and injuring 14,000 others. The earthquake leveled sections of the city’s historic centers, and affected eight million across the country.
Seismologists have been expecting a major earthquake to hit Nepal due to increased pressure from the grinding of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates. Rescue efforts were described as chaotic during the first hours after the earthquake hit; emergency workers and volunteers used tools and bulldozers found from construction sites, dug with hacksaws, and even their bare hands.
Though many have expressed concern for the stability of the concrete high-rises precariously built in Kathmandu, most of the damage was seen among the historic part of the city, clad with centuries-old temples and palaces made of wood and brick.
Four of the world’s heritage sites were severely damaged due to the quake: Bhaktapur Durbar Square, a temple compound built in the shape of a conch shell; Patan Durbar Square, a complex dating back to the third century; Basantarpur Durbar Square, the site of Nepal’s royal family until the 19th century; and Boudhanath Stupa, one of the oldest Buddhist monuments in the Himalayas.
According to many, one of the most devastating architectural losses was the nine-story tower, Dharahara Tower, built in 1832 by orders of the former queen. The government had recently reopened the building to the public, and its visitors could climb up the spiral staircase to a platform, allowing a view of Kathmandu at around 200 feet.
Despite being made of bricks around one and a half feet thick, when the earthquake hit, the walls collapsed. Nepalese police reported having to pull 60 bodies from the debris of the tower.
Writer and photographer Kashish Das Shrestha spent much of the day in the old city, yet still had a hard time believing the tower was gone.
“I was here yesterday, I was here the day before yesterday, and it was there,” he said. “Today, it’s just gone. Last night from my terrace I was looking at the tower. And today I was at the tower – and there is no tower.”
Throughout the city, many disturbed residents are sleeping in the open. Many lost their homes, and others were afraid to stay in buildings, fearing they would be vulnerable to a devastating after shock.
Encampments of large capacity have shown up in open areas, including a space belonging to the military that is generally used for parades and celebration.
Kisnor Raj Giri, a 22-year-old man from Kathmandu who lost members of his extended family said he was too afraid to return home. He joined the others at the military encampment despite the frequent rain.
“Many people are crying, and sharing their hardships,” he said in an interview with CNN.
On Mount Everest, several hundred hikers were attempting to climb the mountain when the earthquake occurred, causing avalanches and killing 19. At least 15 injured climbers returned to Kathmandu, including Bhim Bahadur Khatri, who was working in a meal tent at a base camp on Mount Everest.
“I managed to dig out of what could have easily been my grave,” he told the Associated Press. “I wiggled and used my hands as claws to dig as much as I could. I was suffocating, I could not breathe. But I knew I had to survive.”
This region has been the site of the largest earthquakes in the Himalayas, including an earthquake in 2005 in the Kashmir region and another in 1905 in Kangra, India.
Information from this article taken from nytimes.com, cnn.com, nbcnews.com, usatoday.com.