Newspaper article International New York Times

Geology Put Region on Course for Major Quake

Newspaper article International New York Times

Geology Put Region on Course for Major Quake

Article excerpt

More than 25 million years ago, India, once a separate island on a quickly sliding piece of the Earth's crust, crashed into Asia.

More than 25 million years ago, India, once a separate island on a quickly sliding piece of the Earth's crust, crashed into Asia. The two landmasses are still colliding, pushed together at a speed of 1.5 to 2 inches a year. The forces have pushed up the highest mountains in the world, in the Himalayas, and have set off devastating earthquakes.

Experts had warned of the danger to the people of Katmandu for decades. The death toll in Nepal on Saturday was practically inevitable given the tectonics, the local geology that made the shaking worse and the lax construction of buildings that could not withstand the shaking.

GeoHazards International, a nonprofit organization in Menlo Park, Calif., that tries to help poorer, more vulnerable regions like Nepal prepare for disasters, had noted that major earthquakes struck that region about every 75 years.

In 1934 -- 81 years ago -- more than 10,000 people died in a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in eastern Nepal, about six miles south of Mount Everest. A smaller quake in 1988 with a magnitude of 6.8 killed more than 1,000 people.

Brian Tucker, president and founder of GeoHazards, said that in the 1990s, his organization predicted that if the 1934 quake were to happen again, 40,000 people would die because of migration to the city where tall, flimsily built buildings would collapse.

In an update just this month, GeoHazards wrote, "With an annual population growth rate of 6.5 percent and one of the highest urban densities in the world, the 1.5 million people living in the Katmandu Valley were clearly facing a serious and growing earthquake risk."

The organization helped set up a local nonprofit to continue preparations, including the reinforcement of schools and hospitals. …

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