Quake Coverage (updated)
[addendum 4/29/15. Roger Bilham has added a webpage on this event, which includes an estimate from Max Wyss that fatalities from this event are likely to exceed 50,000, far above the 5,000 currently mentioned]
Ah, to live in the first world and be barraged by video and animations and discussions of the travails of a couple hundred mountain climbers/thrill seekers/bucket listers as tens of thousands of locals suffer far worse fates and face far more uncertain futures…. (this isn’t new; Roger Bilham has noted on one of his web pages that “In the past 50 years more than 94,000 people have been killed by building collapse and avalanches associated with Himalayan earthquakes. In the same time period,148 climbing related deaths have occurred climbing Mt. Everest, which is located some 20 km north of the epicenter of the great Bihar/Nepal earthquake of 1934.” Which have had best selling books written about them? It is reminiscent of the old parody of the Boston Globe describing a nuclear attack on New York: “2 Hub men die in blast; New York also destroyed”)
Anyways, from the press coverage you get the feeling that “wow, this was bad, but it could have been a lot worse”. And indeed looking at photos of Kathmandu, while most might be astonished at the structures destroyed, many seismologists are surprised at some of the structures that survived the quake. But…
The big worry of Himalayan seismologists has actually been a chunk of the Himalayan front a bit farther west, which last ruptured in 1505. It appears there is ample strain built up on that segment of the main plate boundary to unleash a M8.5+. And it is likely that the recent earthquake has put more stress on that segment to the west.
It will rupture some day. If we are lucky, it may turn out to be smaller than expected, but that is still likely to be over M8. So one of the best things that could come out of this recent M7.9 is a major effort to rebuild and reinforce buildings for the next great earthquake. It could come sooner than we’d like.