Nepal aftershocks highlight need for assistance

It has been another disastrous week for Nepal – and for people who hail from or care about Nepal, here in Bloomington and around the world.

Just as relief efforts were gearing up in response to the massive earthquake that devastated the Himalayan country on April 25, a second large quake struck Tuesday morning. The 7.3 magnitude quake killed dozens more people and injured nearly 2,000.

IU Bloomington geologist Michael Hamburger, an expert on earthquakes who has helped organize community support for Nepal, said Tuesday’s quake would be considered an aftershock, but an unusually large one. “It is at the far eastern edge of the rupture zone of the April 25 main shock, and may represent an extension of the fault into an adjacent area of the plate boundary,” he said.

Children attend school in a temporary classroom in Kathmandu built using plastic sheeting.

Children attend school in a temporary classroom in Kathmandu built using plastic sheeting.
(Photo by Stephanie Bluma, USAID).

The question weighing on Nepalis is whether the series of earthquakes and aftershocks have run their course or whether further damaging quakes are likely. Hamburger said it’s hard to know the answer.

“There is a typical decay pattern, which would take months for an earthquake of this size,” he said. “But it varies strongly from earthquake to earthquake. The hazard associated with this one is that there may be many partially damaged structures which will be further affected or even destroyed by this aftershock.”

Nepalis at IU and their supporters quickly organized an effort called IU4Nepal in response to the April 25 quake, seeking to raise at least $25,000 to support relief through the international aid organization GlobalGiving. That campaign is ongoing – and the need is now even more urgent.

Novelist Samrat Uphadyay, the Martha C. Kraft Professor of Humanities at IU Bloomington, said the Tuesday quake left his fellow Nepalis feeling discouraged and fearful.

“People are asking on social media whether god exists,” he said, “and this is pretty big in a place where there’s a shrine around every corner.”

The April 25 earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.8, was the most powerful to strike Nepal in over 80 years. It killed over 8,000 people, injured more than twice that many and destroyed or damaged nearly a half million homes. Entire villages were flattened and many historic structures, including pagodas in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, collapsed.

Some of the hardest-hit areas remain cut off from aid efforts, according to news reports. The New York Times reported that more than 5,000 schools were destroyed by the April 25 quake and another 1,000 schools collapsed in Tuesday’s aftershock.

In addition to the IU4Nepal relief initiative, the U.S. Agency for International Development provides guidance for donating to disaster relief in Nepal. Charity experts recommend donating money rather than supplies in the aftermath of a disaster and targeting assistance to reputable organizations such as GlobalGiving and those registered with monitoring sites like GuideStar.