29 April 2015

In Nepal, it was more than violent geology

April 28, 2015

Kathmandu was ever a disaster-in-waiting. The densely populated capital of one of the world’s poorest countries clings to the slopes of the seismically unstable Himalayas. The city was nearly levelled and 8,500 killed in its last great earthquake 81 years before. It had history. On Saturday the long-feared calamity struck.

I first arrived in Kathmandu in 2007 to begin a new job with Oxfam. I’d been with the charity two years earlier as part of the international aid effort following the Kashmir earthquake. I saw towns there razed by the shifting tectonic plates that lie beneath that mountain range. More than 75,000 people were killed then, 85,000 were injured, and more than 3 million were made homeless.

With the Kashmir tragedy fresh in my mind, I remember looking at the thousands of flimsy shacks and hovels lining Kathmandu’s dusty slums and the sturdier, but still precarious, multi-tiered family homes, the cheaply built apartment blocks and ornate temples that collectively give the city its colourful, distinctive appearance. We all understood and feared what a big earthquake would surely do there.

No comments: