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Saturday, 27 January, 2001, 01:26 GMT
Nepal fears a bigger quake
Durban Square at the centre of Kathmandu
Nepal is ill-prepared for a possible quake
By Daniel Lak in Kathmandu

While it appears that Nepal escaped the South Asian earthquake relatively unscathed, the tremors were felt in many parts of the country.

People in the capital, Kathmandu, came out on to the streets when office buildings shook.

In the earthquake-prone Indian subcontinent, Nepal is possibly the worst spot, and experts are warning that a big earthquake is overdue in the area.

It sits above the point where the continental tectonic plate meets the Asian landmass.

Less than two weeks ago, Nepal observed the 67th anniversary of the last major earthquake to hit Nepal, in 1934.

Years of rebuilding

The quake devastated the Himalayan kingdom, leaving nearly 9,000 people dead, half of them in and around Kathmandu.

It took years to rebuild homes and buildings and repair the damage.

Today, many experts are warning that Nepal is not well enough prepared for big earthquakes, despite the horrific experiences of 1934.

People here are certainly aware of the dangers. The local media has been reporting that the country is far from ready.

An article in the Nepali Times newspaper last week, to mark the anniversary of the 1934 quake, concluded that the authorities have done little else but warn people about the dangers of tremors.

'Unable to cope'

Using the model of the last big quake, experts here have estimated that casualties and damage from a quake of similar severity would be far, far greater than in 1934, and the emergency services would probably not be able to cope.

There are not enough hospital beds or fire fighting units in Kathmandu to cope with more than a few thousand casualties or fires.

A single airport runway and two highways connect the heavily populated capital with sources of emergency supplies.

A blockage on one or all of those routes to the outside world would cause immense hardship.

The aftermath of the next big quake will almost certainly be worse than the immediate effect of the earth tremors.

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See also:

14 Jan 01 | World
Deadly history of earthquakes
30 Mar 99 | Medical notes
Analysis: Natural disasters
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