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Researchers providing earthquake advice to Nepalese

Canterbury researchers providing earthquake advice to Nepalese communities

June 27, 2014

A group of University of Canterbury natural hazard researchers will provide suggestions to strengthening Nepal’s resilience in the face of major earthquakes at an international symposium in Singapore this weekend.

Professor Tim Davies, Associate Professor David Conradson, Dr Tom Wilson, Dr Sarah Beaven and geological sciences PhD student Tom Robinson will outline the experiences of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes and how Nepal can be better prepared for future earthquakes in their area.

Dr Wilson says they will explain the need to understand the physical hazards, the social, cultural and political context, the importance of engaging with communities and resilience-building at national and community levels.

``We will tell them what we have learned from our experiences in Christchurch from different perspectives and we will suggest how best to build resilience,’’ Dr Wilson says.

``We are collaborating with Durham University from the United Kingdom. They will mock up a New Zealand earthquake scenario such as in Wellington, while we will look at an event in Kathmandu. This will help us identify key research needs across the natural and social sciences with the aim of increasing the resilience of rural communities to cope in the wake of high-magnitude earthquakes.

``It is essential that we increase our understanding of, and preparation for, a severe earthquake in Nepal, which has experienced many fatal earthquakes over the years. The last major earthquake to hit Nepal was in 1934, when almost 20,000 people were killed.’’

Nepal is well overdue for another major earthquake. Experts have suggested that Nepal would in all likelihood have a greater loss of life in the next earthquake than the 1934 earthquake.

Kathmandu has only two main roads routed towards medical facilities and only one runway. Any disruption, damage or blockage of these roads could easily have devastating consequences. Other issues identified include lack of education. Buildings have often been put up in great quantity without regulations and without consideration of the importance of earthquake prevention in the building plans. A massive and significant earthquake prevention programme is needed to help save lives.

Dr Wilson says the value of well-prepared organisations which can respond effectively, understand the needs of its own people and those in the wider community, communicate and empower its community, is one which can thrive in the aftermath of a disaster. It requires hard work, vision and sustained commitment from dedicated individuals and teams.

``Above all else, it requires unending drive and commitment to be prepared, to invest sufficient time and resources towards planning and practicing for a major event,’’ Dr Wilson says.


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