NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

Horrible tragedy unfolding in Nepal following massive quake; thousands dead and injured

Last night, as most of the Pacif­ic time­zone was head­ed to bed or snooz­ing away fol­low­ing the end of anoth­er work­week, a mas­sive earth­quake struck Nepal, includ­ing the cap­i­tal of Kath­man­du. Ini­tial­ly report­ed as a mag­ni­tude 7.5 trem­blor by the U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey, it was lat­er revised to 7.8.

The quake stuck at a depth of fif­teen kilo­me­ters, and the epi­cen­ter was declared to be thir­ty-four kilo­me­ters east south­east of Lamjung, Nepal. In the hours since, it has been suc­ceed­ed by a num­ber of pow­er­ful aftershocks.

Some back­ground from the USGS:

The April 25th, 2015 M 7.8 Nepal earth­quake occurred as the result of thrust fault­ing on or near the main frontal thrust between the sub­duct­ing India plate and the over­rid­ing Eura­sia plate to the north. At the loca­tion of this earth­quake, approx­i­mate­ly 80 km to the north­west of the Nepalese cap­i­tal of Kath­man­du, the India plate is con­verg­ing with Eura­sia at a rate of 45 mm/yr towards the north-north­east, dri­ving the uplift of the Himalayan moun­tain range. The pre­lim­i­nary loca­tion, size and focal mech­a­nism of the April 25th earth­quake are con­sis­tent with its occur­rence on the main sub­duc­tion thrust inter­face between the India and Eura­sia plates.

Although a major plate bound­ary with a his­to­ry of large-to-great sized earth­quakes, large earth­quakes on the Himalayan thrust are rare in the doc­u­ment­ed his­tor­i­cal era. Just four events of M6 or larg­er have occurred with­in 250 km of the April 25th, 2015 earth­quake over the past cen­tu­ry. One, a M 6.9 earth­quake in August 1988, 240 km to the south­east of the April 25 event, caused close to 1500 fatal­i­ties. The largest, an M 8.0 event known as the 1934 Nepal-Bihar earth­quake, occurred in a sim­i­lar loca­tion to the 1988 event. It severe­ly dam­aged Kath­man­du, and is thought to have caused around 10,600 fatalities.

Dam­age in Kath­man­du is said to be cat­a­stroph­ic. Many cen­turies-old tem­ples and his­toric build­ings, includ­ing a UNESCO World Her­itage Site, have been reduced to giant piles of rub­ble, with peo­ple trapped inside.

At least 1,500 peo­ple in Nepal are thought to be dead. It’s the worst dis­as­ter that the coun­try has seen in more than eighty years.

The quake was also felt in Chi­na and India.

In the Himalayas, avalanch­es trig­gered by the quake result­ed in the deaths of sev­er­al peo­ple on Mount Ever­est, the world’s tallest above­ground mountain.

This BBC report puts the dev­as­ta­tion into pic­tures, with a num­ber of video snip­pets from affect­ed areas, includ­ing Kathmandu.

The Times of India has been live­blog­ging the response to the quake. Indi­an Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has pledged to help in any way pos­si­ble. India is already deliv­er­ing relief sup­plies by air, using its fleet of car­go transports.

The White House released a state­ment from Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil spokes­woman Bernadette Mee­han pledg­ing assistance.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple express deep con­do­lences for the lives lost in today’s earth­quake,” she said. “The earth­quake and sub­se­quent land­slides caused wide­spread dam­age and loss of life in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. The Unit­ed States is deploy­ing a team of dis­as­ter response experts to Nepal, is pro­vid­ing an ini­tial one mil­lion dol­lars in dis­as­ter relief assis­tance, and stands ready to assist the Gov­ern­ment and peo­ple of Nepal and the region fur­ther in this time of need.”

If you would like to help with dis­as­ter recov­ery, you can make a dona­tion to Mer­cy Corps, which has teams in Nepal now assist­ing sur­vivors.

Mer­cy Corps is based in the Pacif­ic North­west and has an excel­lent rep­u­ta­tion. It is known for keep­ing over­head low and ensur­ing that dol­lars are trans­formed into aid for peo­ple who need it. Its staff have decades of exper­tise respond­ing to dis­as­ters in both the short and long term and know how to orga­nize the deliv­ery of food, water, and shel­ter for those in need.

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