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VashonBePrepared is a coalition of some 10 disaster preparedness organizations on Vashon-Maury Island in Washington's Puget Sound region. We work closely with local and county organizations.

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Latest Updates

Nepal earthquake: many similarities and one big difference

Jun 2

Written by:
6/2/2015 8:55 PM  RssIcon

I've waited weeks to write this post because the news reports have been quite disturbing. It’s been over a month now since the April 25th earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck northwest of Kathmandu, Nepal, killing over 8,000 people and injuring many thousands. The local, regional and national governments of Nepal are overwhelmed, and leaders have called for international aid, which usually takes weeks to arrive. Conditions there are still very grim, people are not yet safe from further harm, and recovery will likely take many years.

Aftershocks are to be expected. A second quake of nearly the same intensity struck east of Kathmandu soon after the inital quake, killing dozens more people and injuring more than a thousand, as well as toppling more buildings, causing more landslides, and interrupting the international recovery efforts that are just getting under way after the first quake. The initial quake has already been followed by at least six aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or higher, including one that was 6.3. People are doubly traumatized by the repeated quakes and aftershocks, and many are still awaiting aid. (I’ll cover psychological resilience in a future post.)

It’s tempting to think there is little relation between our own modern rural island near Seattle and Tacoma, and these remote high-mountain villages, towns and cities in a developing country with far less robust infrastructure than our own. But to ignore our common vulnerabilities would be a mistake. When critical systems and services fail, we are all thrust into survival mode in similar ways. We all depend on communications, transportation, distribution of food, water, medicines and health workers, availability of safe shelters, and reassurance of an eventual return to normalcy.

The big difference between remote rural Nepal and close-in rural Vashon is our opportunity to prepare. With access to more resources ahead of such an incident, we can build robust go-kits and quake supply kits, to cover more of our needs for the days and weeks after an earthquake or other incident. With all this advance warning, we can connect now with neighbors and the larger community, to plan how we'll get and give help, and keep more people safe and comfortable, despite the partial or total disruption of our systems for communicating, distributing water, food and supplies, and getting around.

 Experts have warned repeatedly that the western United States is overdue for a major quake from the Cascadia subduction zone. Governments and nonprofits are listening, and are working hard to prepare, but they acknowledge that no outside efforts will be sufficient, nor will they be deployed quickly enough to compensate for the potential issues we face.

What can we do? We can be our own advance rescue team, one stored gallon of water, one can of food, one box of band-aids at a time. We can talk with our neighbors, family and friends about how we might communicate and help each other after a quake. We an plan, prepare, and practice. We can do this! Let’s start from where we are now, and keep upping our game with practices.

Meanwhile, do support the recovery efforts in Nepal if you can. Vashon-local fundraisers are being held, combining good food and fun with community-building and support of our global neighbors near Kathmandu.

 

 


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