Future shock

Though experts and the media have highlighted the importance of earthquake preparedness time and again, neither the public nor the government seems to have taken much heed. The five Richter Scale jolter on Monday was a sobering reminder of a “big one” that might visit the country at any moment. A major quake (measuring eight or higher in Richter Scale) strikes Nepal every 70-80 years. The last big one was in 1934. In the event of such a quake, the Kathmandu Valley alone is likely to see more than 40,000 deaths, with another 100,000 rendered homeless. Communication will break down, electricity will be interrupted and there will be no running water.

Preparedness is the key to minimising such colossal losses. But the Valley is anything but

prepared with less that 10 per cent of its buildings equipped with earthquake-resistant technology. “Retrofitting” houses is much cheaper during their initial construction than later on. It makes sense too. Why risk losing everything when a fraction of the cost is enough to avert such an eventuality?

Knowledge of what to do in the event of an earthquake will also reduce the loss of human lives significantly. Sometimes, even such elementary measures like ducking under beds and tables are enough to save one’s life. But first, people need to understand the gravity of the matter. If the Kathmanduites do not heed the message now, they might be in for a rude shock in the future.