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Gorkha Earthquake

Gorkha Earthquake

In one of Nepal’s worst natural disasters, the Gorkha earthquake struck the Gorkha District, located west of Kathmandu, on 25 April 2015 at 06:11 UTC or 11:56 am (local time) with a magnitude of 7.8 moment magnitude (Mw). A second 7.2Mw earthquake took place on 12 May 2015.

The earthquake’s epicenter was located 77km northwest of Kathmandu, and its focus was approximately 15km underground. Several aftershocks occurred the day after the main earthquake. The earthquake was also felt in the central and eastern parts of Nepal, in areas around the Ganges River in northern parts of India, in the northwest of Bangladesh, in southern areas of the Plateau of Tibet, and in western Bhutan.

Check out our explanation on Earthquakes to understand how and why they occur!

What caused the Gorkha Nepal earthquake in 2015?

The Gorkha earthquake was caused by the convergent plate margin between the Eurasian and the Indian tectonic plates. Nepal is located on top of the plate margin, making it prone to earthquakes. The geological structure of the valleys in Nepal (where the sediment is soft due to previous lakes) also increases the risk of earthquakes and amplifies seismic waves (which makes the impact of earthquakes more significant).

Gorka Earthquake, Indian Eurasian plate margin, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Nepal is located on the convergent plate margin of the Indian and Eurasian plates

Nepal is at a high risk of natural disasters, including earthquakes. But why?

Nepal is one of the least developed countries globally and has one of the lowest standards of living. This makes the country particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. Nepal regularly experiences droughts, floods, and fires. Due to political instability and corruption, there is also a lack of governmental trust and opportunity to protect the citizens of Nepal from the impact of possible natural disasters.

The effects of the Gorkha earthquake

At 7.8Mw, the Gorkha earthquake was devastating environmentally, socially, and economically. Let’s look at the effects of this earthquake in more detail.

The environmental effects of the Gorkha earthquake

  • Landslides and avalanches destroyed forests and farmlands.
  • Carcasses, debris from buildings, and hazardous waste from laboratories and industries led to the contamination of water sources.
  • Landslides increased the risk of flooding (due to increased sediment in rivers).

The social effects of the Gorkha earthquake

  • Approximately 9000 people lost their lives, and almost 22,000 people were injured.
  • Damage to natural resources affected the livelihood of thousands.
  • Over 600,000 houses were destroyed.
  • There was a marked increase in mental health problems.

A survey conducted four months after the earthquake showed that many people were suffering from depression (34%), anxiety (34%), suicidal thoughts (11%), and harmful drinking (20%). Another survey that involved 500 survivors in Bhaktapur revealed that almost 50% had symptoms of psychiatric illness.

The economic effects of the Gorkha earthquake

  • Damage to housing and significant negative effects on livelihood, health, education, and the environment created a loss of £5 billion.
  • There was a loss of productivity (number of working years lost) due to the number of lives lost. The cost of lost productivity was estimated at £350 million.

Gorkha Earthquake Map of Nepal StudySmarterFig. 2 - Map of Nepal, pixabay

Responses to the Gorkha earthquake

Despite Nepal’s high risk of experiencing natural disasters, the country’s mitigation strategies before the Gorkha earthquake were limited. But thankfully, development in post-disaster relief did play a part in reducing the impact of the earthquake. For example, the 1988 Udayapur earthquake (in Nepal) led to improvements in disaster risk mitigation. Let’s take a look at some of these mitigation strategies.

Mitigation strategies before the Gorkha earthquake

  • Standards for safeguarding infrastructure were implemented.
  • The National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET) was founded in 1993. NSET’s role is to educate communities about earthquake safety and risk management.

Mitigation strategies after the Gorkha earthquake

  • Reconstructing buildings and systems. This is to reduce possible damage from future earthquakes.
  • Optimizing short-term aid. For example, having open spaces is important for humanitarian relief organizations, but many of these open spaces are at risk due to urbanization. As a result, organizations are working on protecting these spaces.

Overall, Nepal’s approach to mitigation strategies needs to improve by relying less on short-term aid and providing more education on earthquake safety.

Gorkha Earthquake - Key takeaways

  • The Gorkha earthquake occurred on 25 April 2015 at 11:56 NST (06:11 UTC).
  • The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.8Mw and impacted the Gohrka District, located west of Kathmandu in Nepal. A second 7.2Mw earthquake took place on 12 May 2015.
  • The epicenter was located 77km northwest of Kathmandu, with a focus of approximately 15km underground.

    The Gorkha earthquake was caused by the convergent plate margin between the Eurasian and the Indian tectonic plates.

  • The environmental impacts of the Gorkha earthquake included the loss of forest and farmland (destroyed by landslides and avalanches) and changes to and contamination of water sources.

  • The social impacts of the Gorkha earthquake included the loss of approximately 9000 lives, nearly 22,000 injuries, and an increase in mental health problems.

  • Economically, £5 billion was lost due to damage to housing and significant negative effects on livelihood, health, education, and the environment.

  • Nepal is located on top of the plate boundary, making it prone to earthquakes. Nepal is also one of the least developed countries globally, with one of the lowest standards of living. This makes the country especially vulnerable to risks of natural disasters.

  • New prevention strategies as a response to the Gorkha earthquake include rebuilding buildings and systems that reduce the possible damage from future earthquakes. Organizations are also working on protecting open spaces used for relief aid.

Frequently Asked Questions about Gorkha Earthquake

The Gorkha earthquake was caused by the convergent plate margin between the Eurasian and the Indian tectonic plates. Nepal is located on top of the plate margin, making it prone to earthquakes. The collision between the two plates causes pressure to build up, which is eventually released.

The Gorkha, Nepal, earthquake happened on 25 April 25 at 11:56am (local time). A second earthquake took place on 12 May 2015.

The Gorkha earthquake had a magnitude of 7.8Mw according to the moment magnitude scale. A moment magnitude scale is used instead of the Richter scale, as the Richter scale is outdated. An aftershock of 7.2Mw also occurred.

The Gorkha earthquake occurred due to the convergent plate margin between the Eurasian and the Indian tectonic plates. Nepal is located on top of the plate margin, making it prone to earthquakes. The collision between the two plates causes pressure to build up, which is eventually released.

The Gorkha earthquake lasted about 50 seconds.

Final Gorkha Earthquake Quiz

Question

When did the Gorkha earthquake occur?

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Answer

The Gorkha earthquake occurred on 25 April 2015 at 11:56am (local time).

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Question

Which areas were affected by the Gorkha earthquake?

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Answer

The area most affected by the Gorkha earthquake was the Gorkha District, west of Kathmandu in Nepal. The earthquake was also felt in the central and eastern parts of Nepal, in areas around the Ganges River in northern parts of India, in the northwest of Bangladesh, in southern areas of the Plateau of Tibet, and in western Bhutan.

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Question

What was the magnitude of the Gorkha earthquake?


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Answer

The Gorkha earthquake was 7.8Mw.

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Question

Where was the epicentre of the Gorkha earthquake?


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Answer

The epicentre of the Gorkha earthquake was located 77km northwest of Kathmandu.

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Question

How deep was the focus of the Gorkha earthquake?


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Answer

The focus of the Gorkha earthquake was approximately 15km underground.

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Question

What caused the Gorkha earthquake? 

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Answer

The Gorkha earthquake was caused due to the convergent plate margin between the Eurasian and the Indian tectonic plates. Nepal is located on top of the plate margin, making it prone to earthquakes. The collision between the two plates causes pressure to build up, which is eventually released.

Show question

Question

Which characteristic of the geological structure magnifies the earthquakes in Nepal?

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Answer

The geological structure of the valleys in Nepal, which magnifies the impact of earthquakes, is the soft sediment from previous lakes.

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Question

What were the environmental impacts of the Gorkha earthquake?


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Answer

The following is a list of the environmental impacts of the Gorkha earthquake:

  • Landslides and avalanches destroyed forests and farmlands.

  • Carcasses, debris from buildings, and hazardous waste from laboratories and industries led to the contamination of water sources. 

  • Landslides increased the risk of flooding (due to increased sediment in rivers).

Show question

Question

What are the social impacts of the Gorkha earthquake?


Show answer

Answer

The following is a list of the social impacts of the Gorkha earthquake:

  • Approximately 9000 people lost their lives, and almost 22,000 people were injured. 

  • Damage to natural resources affected the livelihood of thousands. 

  • Over 600,000 houses were destroyed. 

  • There was a marked increase in mental health problems. 

Show question

Question

What were the economic impacts of the Gorkha earthquake?


Show answer

Answer

The following is a list of the economic impacts of the Gorkha earthquake:

  • Damage to housing and significant negative effects on livelihood, health, education, and the environment created a loss of £5 billion.

  • There was a loss of productivity (number of working years lost) due to the number of lives lost. The cost of lost productivity was estimated at £350 million.

Show question

Question

Why does Nepal have a high risk of experiencing natural hazards?


Show answer

Answer

Nepal is one of the least developed countries globally and has one of the lowest standards of living. This makes the country particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. Nepal is also located on top of the plate margin, making it prone to earthquakes.

Show question

Question

What mitigation strategies existed before the Gorkha earthquake?


Show answer

Answer

These mitigation strategies existed before the Gorkha earthquake happened:

  • Standards for safeguarding infrastructure were implemented.
  • The National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET) was founded in 1993. NSET’s role is to educate communities about earthquake safety and risk management

Show question

Question

What were the responses (mitigation strategies) to the Gorkha earthquake?

Show answer

Answer

These were the responses to the Gorkha earthquake:

  • Reconstructing buildings and systems. This is to reduce possible damage from future earthquakes. 

  • Optimising short-term aid. For example, having open spaces is important for humanitarian relief organisations, but many of these open spaces are at risk due to urbanisation. As a result, organisations are working on protecting these spaces.

Show question

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