Tens of thousands of quake survivors at risk again

Kathmandu, April 11

Tens of thousands of survivors of Nepal’s 2015 earthquake are at risk of future quake damage with about one-third of the newly constructed homes failing to meet safe building codes, the head of the country’s reconstruction agency said today.

Nearly one million houses were destroyed by the 7.8 magnitude quake on April 25, 2015, and hundreds of aftershocks that ensued in the following months. Almost 9,000 people were killed and millions left homeless.

Govind Raj Pokharel, CEO of the National Reconstruction Authority, said close to 100,000 houses have been built or are in the process of being built since the earthquake with over 525,000 houses still required.

However, one third of these new homes have not met new safety codes and are not likely to withstand a similar quake.

“We are planning to make them meet the guidelines by incorporating safety features in such buildings,” Pokharel told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview. “One way of doing that is to retrofit them.”

Seismic retrofitting often involves adding shear walls or steel-braced frames, jacketing columns in concrete, and installing new support columns — all of which is costly.

Pokharel said approximately 33,000 homes — built largely with mud and bricks — were not properly constructed because quake-safe building codes only came into being seven months after the disaster when the NRA was established. The government had a deadline to rebuild all homes by 2020, he said. However if only 60 per cent were built that would be acceptable, he added, citing examples in other quake-hit nations such as Haiti where reconstruction is also lagging. “Not all houses are rebuilt after the disaster anywhere,” he said.