Details of Nepal Earthquake Tell Tragic Tale

The devastating results of a 7.8 earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday are surfacing, and they appear to be as tragic as many expected. Reuters reports that the Nepal earthquake death toll has risen to 1,341, and the New York Times reports that the quake caused a massive avalanche on Mt. Everest that destroyed everything in its path. The loss is not fully known yet, but the death toll is expected to rise as search crews are able to reach some of the hardest hit areas.

Nepal was not the only area to suffer the effects of the quake. The New York Times reports that 34 people were killed in neighboring India, and the LA Times reported that five in the Chinese Territory of Tibet and four in Bangladesh were also killed. It is reported that the effects of the quake were felt as far away as Lahore in Pakistan, meaning there may be additional losses that have not been reported as of yet.

According to an earlier report on Bindlesnitch, the 7.8-magnitude earthquake was the largest to hit Nepal in 80 years.  Seismologists classified the quake as “shallow,” becuase it was less than seven-miles in depth. The shallower the quake, the more destruction it carries according to seismologists. The last time Nepal was hit by an earthquake of this magnitude was in 1934, when an 8.2 quake hit the country, killing an estimated 10,000 people in Nepal and more than 7,000 in India.

The earthquake hit before noon local time. The 7.8-magnitude quake was felt 48 miles northwest of the capital city of Kathmandu, where about 1.4 million people live. The New York Times reports that the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has counted 12 aftershocks since the intial quake, but the LA Times reports that at least 20 aftershocks followed, including one that measured at a magnitude of 6.6. The USGS fears the death toll could rise as high as 10,000 people, and that the damage could interupt as much as 50 percent of Nepal’s gross domestic product.

The destruction included damage tomany historic buildings and sites in Kathmandu, including the Dharahara Tower, which was built as a watchtower in 1832. About 200 people bought tickets to climb up the eight story viewing platform, and several dozen were likely to have been inside when the quake took place. The police pulled at least 60 bodies from the rubble of the tower at last report.

Many of the buildings that collapsed in Kathmandu were made of brick, which are highly susceptible to damage during quakes. Most buildings in Nepal are not built according to earthquake standards that are required in the United States. Many of the individual homes are made of mud and thatch and suffered severe damage from the quake.

The earthquake also triggered massive avalanches on Mt. Everest. The Nepalese police report that an unknown number of hikers are unaccounted for, and that it may take months before they are able to find all those that are missing. CNN reports that officials are deeply concerned because as night falls the temperatures will plummet, meaning many survivors may be trapped with no shelter, power, or running water. 

Devendra Tak, an aid worker from Save the Children, told CNN that “tonight is going to be a very tough night for people in Katmandu and for people in the surrounding villages.” Food, clothing and medicine will be urgently required, Tak added.

Seismologists have feared a major earthquake in western Nepal due to pent up pressure of tectonic plates grinding against one another. Despite a series of earthquakes in previous years, none resulted in a full release of seismic energy, Ganesh K. Batell, a Nepal expert, told the New York Times.

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