What Can Bhutan Learn From the Nepal Earthquake?

The Earthquake in Nepal on April 25, 2015 measuring 7.9 magnitude almost flattened the populated city of Kathmandu. As I watched the news unfold on TV, the Death toll rose swiftly as bodies were dug out of endless rubbles days after the first tremor.

The earthquake triggered avalanche on the south face of Mt. Everest killing over a dozen climbers and injuring many more. Few hundred mountaineers are believed to be lost.

It’s reported that over 31 aftershocks and 2 fresh earthquake happened since then some of which we felt here in Bhutan. These hindered the relief efforts and sent waves of panic among the already devastated survivors. Bad weather made the lives of homeless victims and their search for loved ones excruciating.

As the cameras go beyond Kathmandu and below the Everest the death toll has sky rocketed.

As I always said, earthquakes don’t kill, just imagine, our cars shake more when travelling on rough roads than any violent earthquake. It’s the collapsing structures that bury people alive and take hundreds of lives. We have to assess our homes and move into better homes because we don’t know when the next earthquake will strike.

Temples can’t protect themselves though thousands of devotees for ages have gone to seek protection from them. In fact, ancient temples are sure burial places because they don’t have load bearing columns. Our heritage buildings like Dzongs and Lhakhangs will face the same fate if we don’t reinforce with steel columns. Buildings in our new towns may survive because of our stringent construction laws.

When the earth shakes we are just concerned about our house and TV but we have to know that high up in our mountains we have himalayan tsunami of snow and glacier waiting to happen. Avalanches could burst our glacier lakes and when we lest expect our valleys could be flooded. Are we prepared?

Our telecommunication gets clogged even during a regional event like Tshechus, and during the 2011 earthquake we have seen how badly prepared we are in that term. We haven’t improved an inch. Power lines will fail us too and roads will be disconnected. In fact, Nepal has shown us all the horror we too could face, all we need to do is prepare beyond duck, cover and hold.

What will make the everything worse is the rumours some evil minds cook up. If someone knew when the next earthquake would happen, world would pay him million dollar for his service. It’s also the fault of people who help spread the rumor by calling all their relatives and friends to tell them to sleep outside, and interestingly they obediently follow and make an extra effort to call more people. Be informed that no prediction, no matter where you heard from, is true when it comes to earthquake therefore just avoid them.

By Passang Tshering

The writer is teacher at the Bajothang Higher Secondary School

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