Monday, September 19, 2011


Any student of history knows that Kathmandu gets a major earthquake every 100 to 125 years or so. Every student of engineering (or possibly even the casual observer) knows that most buildings in this city will come down when this happens. So inevitably in the not so distant future Kathmandu will be flattened, this isn't a matter of if, but a matter of when. In the world there are two locations that are listed as potential catastrophic disasters with a major earthquake hits, and Kathmandu is one of them.

So knowing the above, you can imagine what was going through my mind when things started to swing back and forth last night around 6:35PM. I was in the middle of making dinner, waiting for some oil to heat up and had just sat down at my computer to check Facebook and my e-mail. as I dropped myself into the chair it continued to rock a bit back and forth which I thought was odd since I didn't think I had sat down that hard. Then it became very apparent with more forceful movement that this was in fact an earthquake. As I was already on Facebook I typed in a status update of "Holy shit! Earthquake" and then realizing that I should be getting out of the building and not typing I got up grabbed my passport and ran outside to a clear area at the back of the driveway behind the house.

Shamefully I don't have a "go bag", a bag with essential survival equipment and needed documents to get assistance from the US government or to just get out of the country should you need to. Had last nights quake been worse I would have found myself with not much aside from a t-shirt pants, a passport and a wallet full of semi-worthless cash. So if nothing else it acts as a bit of a wake up call to be a little more prepared. One good thing though is that I do have a bunch of people I know and am friends with in the neighborhood, and we've set up a meeting point so that we can all make sure the others are ok. After last night we may expand to having a stash of food and water in a few locations.

Damage around the city seems to have been minimal with a few walls and roughly ten houses collapsing. The tragic side of that is that people were under a few of those walls and one of those houses resulting in the deaths of five people in Nepal. Numerous people were also injured from falling debris and from jumping off roofs and out of windows- which seems like a questionable escape plan  to me. Though to be honest, with the threat of pancaking concrete slabs, it may be the better alternative. Because the earthquake happened last night, and was centered in such a remote region, I'm sure more reports will come in now of landslides and damage out in the Eastern districts out toward Mt. Everest. With the monsoon already being so wet this year and fresh rain having saturated the hills, I imagine more than a few roads are impassible. It will also be interesting to hear if this earthquake caused any flooding or overflow of glacial lakes up in the Khumbu region as I've heard this has been a growing threat in the region. Hopefully the five fatalities that have already been reported are all that there were.

Having grown up on the east coast of the US, Earthquakes are new to me. In fact my first was just that little one we had a few weeks back, centered in Virginia. I had always assumed that the shaking was more chaotic, and not so wavelike. The upside to this experience is that should I find myself in a larger quake, I'll be better prepared and be able to identify what is going on a little faster. Hopefully though this was all the shaking I'll be experiencing for some time.

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