Canadian Consulting Engineer

Nepal engineering students to do building inspections

May 5, 2015

As rescue efforts in Nepal continued after the devastating earthquake, engineering students were being given a fast-track course in how to assess the structural safety of buildings left standing.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a group of 10 civil engineering students at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu were being trained by examining the cracks in buildings on their own century-old campus. “The fresh-faced college students, most of them undergraduates, learned how to identify whether cracks were caused by tension or compression, and how to categorize them by size … ” wrote the L.A. Times’ Julie Makinen from Kathmandu on May 2.

In total about 500 students have volunteered to train to do building inspections and will soon be sent out into the field. The Nepal Engineering Association and the National Society for Earthquake Technology were also helping with the effort.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake wracked the Himalayan nation on April 25. So far the death toll is 7,000 people, although many villages are still inaccessible so the true numbers are not known.


The government has said that over 10,000 public buildings were destroyed, and 13,500 damaged, in addition to 130,000 that no longer exist.

In the L.A. Times article, professor Gokarna Bahadur Motra, who is involved in organizing the building inspection volunteers, said a rough estimate would be that 5% of the buildings in Kathmandu would have to be torn down, and 40-45% would need significant repairs.

Bridges and roads were also destroyed, although the electricity infrastructure (such as it is) was restored relatively quickly.

Bloomberg News reported that Finance Minister Ram S. Mahat has estimated the cost to rebuild the country will be more than $10 billion and will take many years. The $10 billion figure amounts to half of the country’s economy. The country’s economy is smaller than the economies of each of the U.S. states.

Some engineers were surprised the devastation wasn’t worse. It’s believed that lives were saved because Kathmandu had started to allow the construction of high-rise buildings in the last 10 years, and unlike the traditional low-rise buildings, the taller structures required professional engineering and government approval.

The earthquake was the worst to hit Nepal since 1932 and caused damage in neighbouring parts of China, India and Bangladesh. It also triggered a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest.

The earthquake was caused by the Indian Plate sliding under the Eurasian Plate. The crust of earth on which Kathmandu sits reportedly moved three metres to the south in 30 seconds.

To read the article of May 4 in the Los Angeles Times, click here

To view photos of the disaster, click here.




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