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Not many people in Nepal, realize that Nepal is among the high risk countries in terms of earthquake occurrences. Find out more about the reason behind this and what the damages might be if Nepal is hit with a devastating earthquake.

Nepal is as disaster prone country. Floods, landslides, epidemics and fires cause considerable loss of life and property in Nepal every year. Earthquakes, on the other hand are not so frequent, but has the potential for causing the greatest damage. Nepal is a seismic prone country and the risk it faces from earthquakes are very high. Past records have shown that Nepal can expect two earthquakes of magnitude 7.5-8 on the Richter scale every forty years and one earthquake of magnitude of 8+ in Richter scale every eighty years. The last great earthquake to strike Nepal was in 1934 which had a magnitude of 8.3 Richter. It caused considerable damage to buildings along with great loss of lives. Since then, the population in Nepal has skyrocketed; urban development, unplanned and construction practices have deteriorated. If a similar earthquake to that of 1934 was to strike now, it would cause a greater loss of lives and properties.


1310 BS / 1255 AD

The first recorded earthquake in history of Nepal took place on June 7, 1255 AD. One third of the total population of Kathmandu were killed including Abahya Malla , the King of Kathmandu valley , numerous buildings and temples of the valley were entirely destroyed while many of them were severely damaged, the magnitude of the earthquake is said to be around 7.7 in Richter scale

1316BS/ 1260 AD

Next recorded big earthquake after 1255 AD was during the reign of King Jayadev Malla, many buildings and temples collapsed and many more were severely damaged, Although the exact number of fatalities cannot be confirmed still we know from the facts that there was a heavy loss of live resulting from the earthquakes and from the subsequent epidemic and famine said to be widespread which arose from the aftermath of the disaster.

1463BS/ 1408AD

The month August or September of this year saw another major earthquake hit the valley of Kathmandu and the surrounding areas, during the reign of king Shyam singh. The temple of Rato Matchendranath was completely destroyed while many other temples and buildings collapsed and were damaged. Cracks on land appeared in many places. There was a heavy loss of lives and livestock.

1737BS/ 1681 AD

Either on the month of December or January, during the reign King Sri Niwas Malla, another major earthquake said to hit Nepal and the Kathmandu valley. Although very little information is available on this particular earthquake, there was heavy loss lives as well as many buildings including temples were either damaged or destroyed.

1767 AD

In months of June and July another significant earthquake seemed to have hit Nepal. Twenty one shocks and aftershocks of this particular earthquake is said to have occurred in a span of twenty four hours. No written or verbal records survive to indicate any human loss or the magnitude of sufferings and damages caused.

1866 BS/ 1810 AD

During the reign of King Girban Yudha Bikram Shah in the months of May or June twenty one shocks of earthquakes in total were felt in Nepal. Although the loss in human lives and cattle were limited, many houses, building and some temples were either destroyed or damaged.

1880 BS / 1823AD

Seventeen earthquake tremors of various magnitudes were felt in the region of Katmandu valley but these shocks probably were smaller relative to the past earthquakes as there was no report of loss of human lives or livestock.

1890 BS/ 1833 AD

During the reign King Rajendra Bikram Shah on the months of August or September, Two major strikes were experienced in the Kathmandu valley. The first one was felt in around 6 pm and the second one was around 11 pm at night when most of the valley people were already in their beds. Houses, temples, public shelters collapsed. The tower of Dharahara was also severely damaged. The towns of Thimi and Bhaktapur took the brunt of the disaster severely damaging the housing facilities, roads network and various temples. Many building and temples were utterly destroyed. 4214 houses were

1891 BS/ 1834 AD

Four major earthquakes were felt in the months of June and July. These earthquakes destroyed or damaged many buildings and temples. However, the extent of damage was much less than the previous ones (i.e., 1833 event). Since there was a lot of rain which commenced and ended with the earthquakes the search and rescue operations were severely hampered. The Bagmati River was over flooded and a bridge over the river also swept away. The crops planted near the banks of the rivers were also swept away. There are no records of human or livestock casualties.said to have collapsed within Kathmandu Valley and in totality over 18000 houses collapsed all over the country.

1990 BS/ 1934 AD

Magh (January- February) Earthquake, Known as Great Nepal Bihar Earthquake struck the Kingdom of Nepal and it's surrounding areas around 2 pm on the 16th of January. The magnitude of the earthquake was 8.4 on the Richter scale. Casualty figures were highest for any recorded earthquake in the history of Nepal. In total 8519 people lost their lives in Nepal, A total of 126355 houses were severely damaged and around 80893 buildings were completely destroyed.

Total money spent from the earthquake relief fund was NRs 206500 inside Kathmandu valley only. Earthquake relief fund was established by the king, loans were provided for earthquake effected people and earthquake volunteers groups were formed.

For Details …………….Source
  • DesInventar NSET
  • Seismic Hazard Mapping and Risk Assessment for Nepal, UNDP/ UNCHS (Habitat) Subproject
Disaster Risk Mitigation In Nepal

The History of Disaster Risk Mitigation in Nepal is relatively short compared to the rest of the world. Only in recent times that the people as well as the government have been aware of the potential risk and have been active in disaster risk mitigation. The Udaypur earthquake of 1998 was a major awakening for the country as well as for the people. With 721 people losing their lives, 22 districts affected and the loss of over 5 billion rupees in property damages the risk could not be ignored anymore. 1992 saw the start of the National Building Code Development Project (BCDP) which also involved the future founders of NSET. Nepal also observed the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) Day for the first time.

From then on various projects and workshops were conducted to tackle the disaster risk in Nepal. NSET was founded in 1993 after seeing the need to have a Non-Governmental Organization leading the charge. In 1994 the building code development project was released. In 1995 the first attempt was done to get the media involved by conducting the first training course for the journalists in disaster journalism. In 1998 His Majesty's Government of Nepal declared 16 January as the National Earthquake Safety Day (ESD). NSET launched the School Earthquake Safety Program (SESP) in 1999.

Since the realization of the effects of earthquake disasters on the population, various programs have been launched with considerable success. People are made aware of the earthquake threat and the importance has been realized by not only the people but also the local government, local Non-Governmental as well as various international organizations.

Why are we affected

45 million years ago, the Indian continent collided into Southern Tibet. The Indian continent is driven under Tibet, pushing lightweight sediments upwards and thus the formation of the Himalayas. Nepal sits across the boundary between India and southern Tibet which are still moving towards each other by 2 meters per century. This movement creates pressure within the Earth, which builds up and can only be released through earthquakes. This is the only way earthquakes can happen in Nepal.

Earthquakes happen very often in Nepal. Based on the seismic record of the number of earthquakes that occurred since 1255, earthquakes of magnitude greater than 8 occurred on average once every 80 years. The last great earthquake of magnitude 8.3 occurred in 1934. The graph below shows the seismic record between 1911 - 1991. In terms of the per capital risk, people living in the valley is 200 times more at risk than people living in Kobe, Japan. As explained in the graphical images below.

The amount of damaged is strongly influenced by the quality of soil. Kathmandu Valley is located on the site of a prehistoric lake which has been filled with soft sediments that make up the valley floor today. These soft sediments magnify the shaking during an earthquake. In addition, when shaken, the water saturated soil will change from a firm material to a semi-liquid material and loses its ability to support structures. This phenomena is called liquefaction. In the figure (above), the red areas have high liquefaction potential. The Tribhuvan International Airport (bold area) is situated on relatively firm grounds but access to it might be cut off due to collapse of bridges and impassable

For more information about loss estimates and the estimated degree of damaged done to other critical facilities such as water and electricity supplies, telephone lines etc.

The population in the Kathmandu Valley has significantly increased in recently times. The chart below shows the population increased since 1800. The red triangles indicate major earthquakes that occurred.

  • Deaths: 40,000
  • Injuries: 100,000 - 200,000
  • Damaged Buildings: 60%
  • Homelessness: 600,000 - 900,000

For more information about loss estimates and the estimated degree of damaged done to other critical facilities such as water and electricity supplies, telephone lines etc., please refer to the Kathmandu Valley Earthquake Risk Management Project below. Kathmandu Valley Earthquake Risk Management Project: Action Plan (3.49 MB) Adobe Acobat is needed to open this file.

Earthquake Preparedness

Staying Safe before, During and After an Earthquake

These are some common do's and don'ts when an earthquake strikes, with slight modifications to suit the Nepali context. These Instructions are laid out in three phase.

Before - Preparation for any future Earthquakes

During - What to do during an Earthquake

After - What is to be done after an Earthquake



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February 2017
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