The Kathmandu Valley And The Constant Terror Of Earthquakes

1349 words - 5 pages

The Kathmandu Valley and the Constant Terror of Earthquakes

One important climatic feature that plagues the South Asian region of the Kathmandu Valley is earthquakes. A few severe earthquakes have taken place in the country's history and caused many deaths and nearly irreparable damage to impoverished Nepal. The residents of the Kathmandu Valley experience small tremors nearly every day, whether they can feel them or not. The world and the nation is waiting for the 'next big one' to terrorize the small country.

The Kingdom of Nepal is a landlocked nation that geographically lies between India and China. The narrow country also located at the boundary between the Indian and Tibetan tectonic plates and is thus extremely susceptible to earthquakes.[1] The entire kingdom falls into highly seismic zones, including the mountains. The Himalayan mountain range was even formed by the collision of the Asian and Indian plates that started about 50 million years ago, and ended with the subduction of the Indian plate underneath Tibet.[2]

The Universities of Alaska and Colorado, in order to help these poor nations, have made precise measurements in both the Nepal Himalayan range and Tibetan Plateau since March of 1991.[3] The researchers have discovered that the Indian plate moves 53-63 millimeters closer to Asia at the same time as Tibet moves the same direction by 34-39 millimeters each year.[4] Therefore, Nepal is rowed about 19-24 millimeters per year.[5] As these steady movements have continued throughout the years, and slip events have also occurred causing great earthquakes on a north-sloping surface underneath the Himalayan mountains.[6] And as lakes long ago occupied the Kathmandu Valley, the contents of the soil today are prone to liquefaction, which is a large problem to everything built in the valley.[7]

Over 11,000 people have lost their lives in major earthquakes in Nepal in this century alone,[8] and seismic records of the country extend back to 1255.[9] The significant earthquakes that have occurred more recently shook Nepal in 1810, 1833, 1866, and the most devastating and most recent in 1934.[10] All of these earthquakes were of a similar size.

The earthquake of 1255 was reported to have destroyed many houses and temples, and to have killed one third to one fourth of the population of the Kathmandu Valley.[11] In 1407, an earthquake destroyed the famous Machhhendra Nath Temple of Patan. The two strongest earthquakes in the nationÕs history were the ones that took place in 1833 and 1934. The earthquake of 1833 destroyed the Kathmandu Valley and its magnitude was reported to have been a 7.8 on the Richter scale.[12] The people of Nepal were fortunate however, that it was preceded by two large foreshocks, and due to the warnings, the casualties were minimal and reported to be less than 500 people.[13]

The residents of the Kathmandu Valley were...

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