Why the Nepal tragedy happened??

Nepal is a mountainous nation between India and Tibet known for its hiking opportunities,

wildlife parks and temples. Trekkers visit its Himalayan Mountains to follow the Annapurna

circuit or trails around Mt. Everest. If you are a trekker or an adventurous person then you

must have heard of Nepal a small nation located in the vicinity of Himalayas.

Nepal is located on the boundary of two major tectonic plates (Indian plate and Eurasian

plate), so it has suffered large earthquakes in recent history. In past century, four quakes of

magnitude more than 6.0 have occurred and have caused widespread damage and loss of life.

In 1934 a magnitude-8.0 earthquake, known as the Nepal-Bihar earthquake, killed about

10,600 people and seriously damaged the capital, Kathmandu. It remains the most deadly

earthquake in Nepal’s history. More recently, a magnitude-6.9 quake killed almost 1,500

people in August 1988.

So what happened on Saturday (25th April, 2015) that shook the entire Nepal with the

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magnitude of 7.9 causing around 4000 people dead, 7000 injured and demolition of the

historical monument Dharahar tower is that a chunk of rock about 9 miles below the earth’s

surface shifted, unleashing a shock wave, as powerful as the explosion of more than 20

thermo-nuclear weapons those ripped through the Kathmandu valley.

Image:  19th century Dharahara Tower in Kathmandu

The junction of the India and Eurasia tectonic plates is the cause of earthquakes in

the Himalayan region. The Indian plate is moving to north under the Eurasian plate at a rate

of 45 mm a year, in a process which is known as “thrust fault” and this is what builds the

Himalayan mountain range.

After an earthquake, the plates resume moving and the clock resets. Nepal lies on a so-

called thrust fault, where one tectonic plate forces itself on top of another. The fault runs

along the 1,400-mile range, and the constant collision of the India and Eurasia plates pushes

up the height of the peaks by about a centimetre each year.


And with this incident, Nepal has gone taller by 80 centimetres.

Despite the seeming regularity of severe earthquakes in Nepal, it isn’t possible to predict

when one will happen. Historic records and modern measurements of tectonic plate

movement show that if the pressure builds in the region in a way that is generally consistent

and homogeneous, the region should expect a severe earthquake every four to five decades.

Geologists are saying that it was a tragedy waiting to happen. Geophysicists have long

monitored how fast the Earth’s plates are moving, and the entire subcontinent of India is

being driven slowly but surely underneath Nepal and Tibet at a speed of around 1.8 inches

per year. It’s the reason Everest exists.


In the 81 years since the 1934 Bihar earthquake, the land mass of India has been pushed

about 12 feet into Nepal. The bigger the area that slips, and the larger the pent-up energy, the

greater the damage.

Saturday’s slip took place over an area about 1,000 to 2,000 square miles over a zone

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spanning the cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara in one direction, and almost the entire

Himalaya mountain width in the other. A part of India slid about one to 10 feet northwards

and underneath Nepal in a matter of seconds.

About 1.45 million people live in Kathmandu, the majority in poorly constructed homes

not designed to withstand the kind of shaking seen on Saturday. Studies have long predicted

that the Kathmandu area was due a magnitude-8 earthquake, or higher — one study predicted

between 21,000 and 42,000 fatalities if a magnitude-8.1 earthquake had struck the area.

(Fortunately, Saturday’s shaking was half that intensity).

Still, this catastrophe comes at a delicate time for Nepal as it emerges from a long-running

civil war and its economy has been improving steadily. We have to hope that recovery from

both can somehow take place despite the enormous challenges.

Let’s pray for Nepal.

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Harsh is a curious writer who loves to explore his surroundings. There are many websites who provide answer to people queries but no single website alone resolves the curiosity of people. Curious Mind Box is an initiative to resolve the curiosities and answer every What, How and Why question that comes into your mind.

One thought on “Why the Nepal tragedy happened??

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