Nepal was hit by a powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake on Sunday, November 5, 2023, which killed more than 150 people and injured hundreds more in the remote and mountainous districts of Jajarkot and West Rukum. The earthquake, which was felt as far as Kathmandu and Delhi, also triggered landslides and damaged houses, roads, and infrastructure.
The earthquake was the largest to strike Nepal since the devastating 2015 quakes, which killed nearly 9,000 people and destroyed or damaged more than 500,000 buildings. However, scientists warn that Sunday’s quake may not have released all the pent-up stress in the region, and that a bigger and more destructive earthquake may be looming.
According to Dr Amod Dixit, a seismologist and the executive director of the National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET), Sunday’s quake occurred in the central belt of Nepal, which is classified as an “actively energy releasing sector” and has a history of producing large earthquakes. He said that the quake was caused by the collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates, which are constantly pushing against each other and creating strain in the crust.
Dr Dixit said that the strain accumulates over time and is periodically released in the form of earthquakes, but that the rate of accumulation is faster than the rate of release. He said that the 2015 quakes, which occurred in the eastern and western belts of Nepal, did not affect the central belt, and that Sunday’s quake only released a fraction of the strain in the area. He estimated that there is still enough strain to generate an earthquake of magnitude 8 or more, which could happen anytime.
Dr Dixit urged the people and the authorities to remain alert and prepared for such a scenario, and to take measures to reduce the risk and impact of a potential mega-quake.
“You cannot move the population; the entire country is seismic, the entire Nepal is seismic,” Dixit told the New York Times. “But can we improve the building stock? The answer is yes we can, and we have demonstrated in many parts of the world, including in Nepal, that we can.” He said that the people should follow the earthquake safety guidelines, such as staying away from weak or damaged buildings, avoiding overhead wires or objects, and finding a safe and open space during a quake.
Dr Dixit’s warning is echoed by other experts, such as Dr Lok Bijaya Adhikari, the chief of the National Seismological Centre (NSC), who said that Nepal is still in a seismically active zone and that more earthquakes are inevitable. He said that the NSC is monitoring the seismic activity and the aftershocks of Sunday’s quake, and that the public should be vigilant and informed.