Nepal’s National Earthquake Safety Day commemorates 15 January 1934, the day when a magnitude 8.3 quake epicentred in Okhaldhunga, killed at least 17,000 people. It is known as the ‘Bihar Earthquake’ because Nepal was closed to the outside world then, and the British had more information on the damage and casualties in northern India.
That sunny winter afternoon, temples and homes in Kathmandu crumbled in clouds of brown dust. Geysers of water shot out of fields, as the soil was squeezed like a sponge. In the royal palace, two of King Tribhuvan’s daughters were killed. Of Kathmandu Valley’s total population of 200,000, more than eight thousand died that day. Survivors, now in their 90s, have traumatic childhood memories of death, destruction and fear.
Today, Kathmandu’s population is 3 million. Buildings are densely-packed and most are multi-storey concrete structures. Kathmandu ranks #1 on the list of Top Ten cities in the world most vulnerable to a catastrophic earthquake.
Past disasters foretold, Om Astha Rai