I’m watching the Nepal earthquake recovery via the Internet. Here’s the 30,000-foot view:
Eight million people are affected. Roughly two million need immediate aid in the form of water, food, shelter, and medical care. The government is not up to the task, failing to execute even basic relief operations. International aid is flowing in, but there’s a bottleneck at the Kathmandu airport.
The country is poor, to begin with, and it’s a catastrophic strain to come up with the resources to help millions of people. Outside the capital, in the rural regions near the epicenter, entire villages are flattened and the roads – hard to travel in normal times – are blocked by landslides. The misery in the mountains is unknown, but no doubt dreadful.
People are fleeing the capital city for fear of aftershocks, disease, and lawlessness. There are not enough buses to transport the hundreds of thousands who are trying to leave. People are living outdoors under tarps, and there’s a cold rain. People are getting angry, and the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.
The earthquake was no surprise. After a big quake 80 years ago, the region was studied and another quake was predicted. Building codes were recommended, but they were ignored because it’s expensive to build sturdy buildings and the country and its people are poor.
My amateur analysis: This disaster is a grievous wound to the country of Nepal. The nation will be weakened. The UN says $415 million is needed for immediate aid. As always, substantial aid will come with conditions, presumably reflecting the interests of governments and institutions that want influence in that part of the world.
Looking homeward, a big quake here in Seattle would change the reality that we live in. We don’t have as many weak brick buildings as Nepal does, though we have some. But our complex infrastructure is vulnerable to long-term disruption, and our advanced economy has further to fall. The recovery here would also involve mass evacuations and powerful players vying to control the future of the city.
Store water, and be ready to get out, should the need arise!