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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 29th April 2016 > TIN CITY


One year later, survivors of Nepal’s devastating earthquake are living in barely adequate temporary shelters that seem likely to become permanent


IT WAS A MIRACLE, the Nepalis say, that the 2015 Gorkha earthquake, which registered a magnitude of 7.8 and shook their Kathmandu Valley onto the world stage, happened on a Saturday morning. Throughout rural Nepal, children were in their home villages instead of away in the schoolhouses, and most everyone was out in the fields planting, picking, cooking and playing. When the ground rumbled on April 25, the people swayed, fell to their knees in the dirt and felt their hearts race as they looked out across the valleys and saw homes topple. When the shaking stopped, they ran through the switchbacks carved into the terraced hills to their stone-and-mud homes, most constructed at great cost and with their own hands over many years, to assess the damage.

Over 600,000 houses crumbled that day, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs (some 300,000 more were partially damaged)—but only around 9,000 people died; consider that the death toll of Haiti’s 2010 quake is thought to be well above 100,000. The people of Nepal counted their blessings and resigned themselves to making a new life.

A year later, roads have been cleared and businesses have reopened; the traffic in Kathmandu is again making rush hour unbearable, and the city air unbreathable. But most of the rubble remains, and state-of-the-art, earthquakeresistant structures have not risen from the dust. In fact, among the dozen or so villages I visited in the first week of April 2016, not a single ruined home had been rebuilt. Instead, the majority of Nepali families who lost their houses now reside in precarious temporary dwellings made of corrugated metal, plastic tarpaulin and whatever other materials they could salvage.

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