Valley hospitals ‘ill-equipped’ to handle major quake

Kathmandu, November 5:

The hospitals in Kathmandu will not be able to handle the casualties if a big earthquake hits the valley, Amod Dixit, executive director of National Society for Earthquake Technology, Nepal, said.

Speaking on the occasion of “Earthquake Awareness Programme,” organised by Physicians for Social Responsibility Nepal with the technical support of NSET, Dr Dixit said that the level of awareness among the people was dismal.

“Nepal is prone to earthquakes. It has witnessed an earthquake of about seven Richter Scale in magnitude every eight years. We are in a very vulnerable position, but we are still not taking concrete measures to mitigate the effects in case of a major quake,” Dr Dixit said.

Hospitals are located in vulnerable places themselves and if an earthquake like the one that hit Kathmandu in 1934 were to strike the Valley again, it would be very difficult to reach the hospitals as access roads, bridges and other infrastructure would have been damaged, he said.

“Nepal is equipped to cope with earthquakes, but due to the lack of institutionalised efforts, we have been unable to minimise the risks posed by a big quake,” Dixit said, adding, there is also the need for the laws that ensure the safety of places safe.

Surya Narayan Shrestha, a structural engineer at NSET, said that structural safety, non-structural safety and emergency preparedness should be ensured to mitigate the effects of a big earthquake.

“We might have strong infrastructure, but if the exits in any building cannot handle a large number people in rush, the strong building alone will not minimise the number of deaths. These small considerations can substantially reduce the death toll,” Shrestha said.

Shrestha said a survey of 14 hospitals of the valley in 2003 showed that most of them were not equipped to handle major quakes and had both structural and non-structural glitches. “A little investment in risk minimisation measures can save millions of lives. But we are still neglecting this important issue,” Dixit said.