Guillaume Prudent-Richard - Associate Director, Environment from Canberra; and Amit Prothi - Associate from Design and Planning, Virginia were in Nepal on the 25th of April when a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck.
The pair had arrived in Kathmandu just two days before to set up and run a disaster risk management workshop funded by the Asian Development Bank. The workshop’s focus on preventative measures, land use planning, building codes and disaster risk management incentives would prove frighteningly relevant for the city.
They had decided to enjoy a hike in the mountains on that Saturday to take in the view over the Kathmandu Valley. They were standing on a mountain ridge when the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck.
“It was surreal, considering we were there to discuss the high probability that an earthquake may strike the city, and then actually experiencing it as it happened,” said Amit.
“Even where we were, a long way out of the city, the shocks were so severe, we had to sit on the ground and wait for the worst to pass,” said Guillaume.“At first you are not sure what is happening, dogs are barking, people are screaming and there are loud cracking sounds; when the ground continued to shake violently. After ten seconds we realised it was a big earthquake.”
“When we returned to the city later that day, the devastation was everywhere. Beautiful old temples, many buildings in ruins, and thousands of people dead, injured or displaced from their homes. Everyone was staying outside and most people seem quite stunned and not sure of what to do or where to go. Fortunately, our Japanese-designed hotel was not affected at all.”
The risk management workshop was duly cancelled as the organizers and participants got to work on the recovery efforts in Kathmandu. Once Guillaume and Amit had determined everyone in their team was safe, they visited the damaged areas to gain an understanding of the impact of the earthquake. They spent the following week with the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority to update their 20-year Strategic Development Plan and capture some of the key issues arising as a result of the earthquake.
“While this is a tragic event, it does provide the opportunity to plan and improve on the original buildings by incorporating disaster risk management in the reconstruction program,” said Guillaume.
The pair continues to offer their local contacts assistance with the reconstruction effort and long term planning. The recovery effort in Nepal will take time, and AECOM is investigating ways in which our people can help, both on the ground and by donation.