Nepal experienced a catastrophic earthquake Saturday, April 25, with a death toll of more than 2,500 and thousands still missing. This was the strongest earthquake that has hit the Himalayan mountain region in the last eight decades. Experts have explained the Nepal earthquake and its aftershocks and are predicting a more lethal one in the near future in the same region. They mentioned that they have been bracing themselves for a massive earthquake in the region for quite some time now, but this one is not the more lethal one as per their estimates. The 7.9-magnitude earthquake could be a precursor to a more devastating earthquake that they have been predicting in the region.
The earthquake on Saturday that was measured on the Richter scale at 7.9 had released energy which is equal to detonation of close to 100 million tons of TNT. The epicenter falls in the Himalayan mountain range which is considered to be the most newly formed mountain range in the world, at about 50 million years ago. The Himalayan mountain range and the Tibetan plateau were a result of constant collision between the Indian and the Eurasian plate. The Indian plate is moving in the north and northwest direction, and this tectonic shift is the cause of earthquakes in the region.
Experts have been predicting an impending seismic shift resulting in an earthquake that could measure more than 8 or 9 on the Richter scale. They have said that there is a vast amount of energy accumulated in the region and this earthquake in Nepal has not even released a total of five percent of that. As per the readings, it is being suggested that this earthquake, in terms of energy release could be classified as medium. According to scientists explaining the Nepal earthquake, the Hindukush region which stretches up to more than 1,500 miles (2,500 km) could experience more lethal earthquakes which would prove to be disastrous.
The experts further explained that a magnitude 9 earthquake is approximately 32 times stronger and 10 times bigger than an earthquake which is magnitude 8. The magnitude is simply a measurement of the seismic waves and their height on the seismograph. Though the epicenter of the earthquake was in Nepal, tremors were felt in places as far as New Delhi, the capital city of India. The more than 15 aftershocks recorded were also very strong as one of them was magnitude 6.6 on the Richter scale. Experts have warned that the aftershocks of such a big earthquake can even be felt more than two months after the earthquake. In this scenario, the possibility of an Indian city or town being affected cannot be ruled out. The landlocked country of Nepal shares its borders with India and the Tibetan region.
A heavily populated region of Nepal was hit by the earthquake resulting in an estimated damage of close to $10 billion. As per assessments, more than 105 million people in the entire region felt the tremors during the earthquake and the aftershocks. The seismologists said that the epicenter of the quake was a region called ‘thrust fault.’ It is formed when one piece of the Earth’s crust moves beneath another piece. As mentioned earlier, the Indian plate has been moving under the Eurasian plate at 45 millimeters a year as per the measurements. Apart from devastating earthquakes, recurring landslides are a big worry now.
As per the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports in terms of the fatalities and economic losses, the earthquake could merit a ‘red alert.’ Other similar catastrophic incidents in the past have necessitated an international response and help for recovery. Adding to that is the problem of Maoist and insurgent groups that have caused instability in Nepal. It is a poor country without a lot of resources. Nepal’s Constituent Assembly elected in 2008 was supposed to write the country’s constitution. This was after a decade long Maoist insurgency followed by the overthrow of Monarchy. However, that work could not be finished. The present assembly elected in 2013 has also failed to complete the job of writing the country’s constitution. This will add to the worries as experts who have shared information about the earthquake in Nepal have predicted a more lethal one in near future.
By Ankur Sinha
Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi / UNDP Nepal(1)-Creativecommons Flickr License
Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi / UNDP Nepal(2)-Creativecommons Flickr License