Case study: Nepal 2015 (LIC)

A boy stands on a pile of rubble amongst houses destroyed by an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Kathmandu – a city in ruins

Causes

On 25 April 2015 a 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal in Asia. The earthquake occurred on a convergent collision plate boundary between the Indian and Eurasian plates. The focus was only eight kilometres deep and the epicentre was just 60 kilometres north-west from the capital Kathmandu.

Map of Nepal, showing the epicentre of an earthquake that struck on 25 April 2015 in relation to Kathmandu and Mount Everest.

The earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing approximately 20 people. This made April 25 2015 the deadliest day on the mountain in history. The earthquake triggered another huge avalanche in the Langtang valley, where 250 people were killed.

People and tents at Base Camp, Mount Everest. The people are looking at an avalanche which is occurring in the background.
An avalanche struck at Base Camp, Mount Everest
A bar graph showing recorded earthquakes in Nepal.Almost every day for the three weeks that followed, aftershocks were reported across the region. Almost one in three were a magnitude of five or higher.

Impacts

Infrastructure

  • Centuries-old buildings were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley, including some at the Changu Narayan Temple and the Dharahara Tower.
  • Thousands of houses were destroyed across many districts of the country.

Social and economic

  • 8,632 dead and 19,009 injured.
  • It was the worst earthquake in Nepal in more than 80 years.
  • Temperatures dip in Nepal at night, and people chose to sleep outside due to aftershocks or the possibility of houses collapsing.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless with entire villages flattened.
  • 1.7 million children had been driven out into the open.
  • Harvests were reduced or lost that season.
  • The United States Geological Survey (USGS) initially estimated economic losses at nine per cent to 50 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), with a best guess of 35 per cent.
  • Short term loss of tourist revenue, a major industry in Nepal.
  • The earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing approximately 20 people. Estimates put the number of trekkers and climbers at Base Camp at the time of the quake at up to 1000.
  • The steep valleys of the area suffered many landslides, the village of Ghodatabela was covered, killing 250 people.
A before-and-after image of Dharahara Tower that was destroyed in the earthquake. The top image shows the tower intact, the bottom image shows people standing amongst the rubble of the tower.
Dharahara Tower, Kathmandu, before and after the earthquake

Responses to reduce the impacts

  • International aid was provided by India and China who in total committed over $1 billion to help support Nepal.
  • The UK offered help and support. Over 100 search and rescue responders, medical experts, and disaster and rescue experts were sent together with three Chinook helicopters for use by the Nepali government.
  • The GIS tool “Crisis mapping” was used to coordinate the response.
  • Aid workers from charities such as the Red Cross came to help.
  • Temporary housing was provided, including ‘Tent city’ in Kathmandu.

Responses to build capacity to cope

  • A new government taskforce was created to help deal with future earthquakes.
  • Areas were zoned to assess damage.
  • People are now being educated across Nepal to do earthquake drills.

Responses to tackle the root cause

  • The Government of Nepal is trying hard to reduce poverty so that people can build homes and structures which could withstand earthquakes.

Long-term

  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided a $3 million grant to Nepal for immediate relief efforts, and up to $200 million for the first phase of rehabilitation.
  • Aid was donated by a huge number of countries. The UK gave £73 million, of which £23 million was donated by the government and £50 million was donated by the public. The UK also provided 30 tonnes of humanitarian aid and eight tonnes of equipment.
Dozens of tarpaulin-covered shacks that form part of Chuchepati camp, a ‘tent city’ set up for displaced victims of the earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal.
‘Tent city’ field in Kathmandu, Nepal