The tragedy of the thousands of deaths in Nepal following a devastating earthquake is only made worse by the fact that much of the suffering could have been avoided.
The earthquake was inevitable. Experts had been predicting it since the last significant one in 1934, which resulted in nearly 11,000 deaths in Nepal and neighboring India.
Saturday’s earthquake rocked a large portion of central Nepal, from Mount Everest to the capital of Kathmandu and points west. As difficult as it has been to reach victims in the capital, getting to those in the outlying areas has been nearly impossible. While approximately 200 climbers have been rescued from Mount Everest, the situation is becoming desperate for thousands of people in remote mountain villages.
The world is reacting quickly. The United States and the European Union, among many nations, are dispatching aid. Notably, China and India, which share a troubled history in the region, have stepped up.
Nepal, a mountainous nation between India and Tibet, has been a shambles politically for a long time. The 10-year Maoist insurgency ended in 2006, but after two elections there is still no constitution.
The people deservedly have little confidence in the government’s ability to do much of anything, let alone cope with this enormous crisis. The Nepali government has been concerned with the earthquake risk, and the U.N. Development Program and supporting governments, including the United States, have offered help.
But work proceeded at a plodding pace in a poor country that had to spend so much effort on day-to-day survival.
Alyssa Ayres, a senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia for the Council on Foreign Relations, in a blog post reflected on her experience several years ago walking in downtown Kathmandu and observing many poorly constructed buildings: “As we ducked into a traditional courtyard, winding our way through a low narrow corridor before emerging into an open square surrounded by high traditional homes, we saw a big stick propping one edge of a building up against another.”
Such tragedy. The hope is that the nations rushing in aid will remain to help Nepal prepare for the next, inevitable earthquake.