Hope Shattering Earthquakes

High in the Himalayas, at an altitude of four thousand six hundred feet, thousands of people lie in absolute desperation and devastation. Hungry for hope, food, and craving the strength to rebuild the debris, citizens of Nepal cling with immense might to any chance of survival. On April 25, 2015, a catastrophe struck the country. A magnitude 7.8 earthquake trembled the grounds, leaving Nepal in a state of complete chaos. With its epicenter in Lamjung, approximately 50 miles from the capital city of Kathmandu, the temblor had a ripple effect throughout the entire country and affected areas in India and China, as well as activated an avalanche on Mount Everest. A myriad of deaths, countless injuries, and a general sense of pain, fear, and exasperation filled the county with heartbreak. While it has been noted as the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since 1934, the tragedy of April 25th was far from an unfamiliar fright. Unfortunately, this cataclysmic event was just one of many. Day and night, the people of this remote, impoverished, congested, and shoddily built mountainous community live in constant fear of more natural disasters.

Just about a week before the ground-breaking calamity, seismic experts from around the world gathered in Kathmandu to discuss tactics and preparations for potential tribulations. Number one on the agenda was to find a solution to the danger of earthquakes in order to mitigate the extremity of the destruction. Though an earthquake of this enormity was predicted and highly expected long before realization, as life has come to prove, time is never on our side, so the experts were incapable of implementing a plan before the fiasco occurred this year.

In the midst of an incredibly quake-prone zone, Nepal’s vulnerability has always been very high. At the junction of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates, frequent tectonic activity makes the region hazardous and unstable; devastating earthquakes are nearly inevitable. Time and time again the beautiful, culturally rich, and vibrant, streets of Nepal turn to remains, Temples turns to ruins, and nearly everything deteriorates. Because the shallow depth of the quake was just six miles, the amount of earth was not sufficient to absorb the energy, creating a massive intensity, which caused much greater damage. In essence, it is a never-ending cycle of disaster.

For several reasons, the extent of this catastrophe goes beyond sole ecological means—the human conditions in Nepal exacerbate the issue. Seismologist and head of the earth sciences department at the University of Cambridge in England, James Jackson, notes, “It was sort of a nightmare waiting to happen.” Due to the lack of security and structural support of buildings, the consequences are far more horrendous. Another factor that complicates the situation is the concentration of civilians in perilous areas. While the trigger is natural, “it’s buildings that kill people, not earthquakes,” he said. The underdevelopment and lack of resources within the country contributed greatly to the severity of the cataclysm.

Only a couple of weeks after the ruinous temblor in April, another quake shook Nepal. On May 12th, as the country struggled to get back on their feet after the initial shock, they were knocked down once again. The cataclysms of this year have been an eerie reminder of Nepal’s previous battles with natural disaster. With the death tolls continuously rising, and destruction pervasive, the damage of this disaster is seemingly everlasting. The April and May earthquakes have been deadly, tumultuous, and caustic, quickly eroding the last thread of hope. Though buildings may have collapsed, and temples may have toppled, our hope and prayers for Nepal have not.