22-28 May 2015 #759

Preparedness saved lives

As it was retrofitted, a four-storey building didn’t suffer a single crack
Dambar Krishna Shrestha


When Bijaya Bahadur Mali (pic) of Chhatrapati Free Clinic (CFC) in Kathmandu decided to retrofit the building three years ago, many called him ‘mad’ for spending so much money on an old structure.

The single-storey clinic built in 1962 added three floors in 1985. But because it was retrofitted the building didn’t suffer a single crack in the 25 April earthquake and the 7.3 magnitude aftershock on 12 May.

“Those who called me crazy are now seeking shelter in the grounds of the clinic,” says Mali.

The clinic was able to treat hundreds of people injured in the earthquake and provided shelter to many who lost their homes as per an earthquake preparedness plan drawn up in 2005. It was a part of that plan to retrofit the building to make it earthquake-resistant at a cost of Rs 5.2 million.

With support from the National Society of Earthquake Technology (NSET), the clinic also trained 200 local youth and 600 communtiy members in rescue work in case of a big earthquake. They ended up saving many lives last month. Mali has been pushing retrofitting all old and weak hospital buildings across the country. But he says political leaders and government authorities were not receptive to the idea of earthquake preparedness.

“The earthquake struck when a Constituent Assembly session was going on and all political leaders were there,” he says. “But I don’t think they have learnt their lesson yet. It wasn’t the earthquake that killed people but the indifference of our politicians.”

Two years ago Mali built an earthquake-resistant house for himself. He says, “If your damaged house can be retrofitted by spending 40 per cent of the cost of building a new one, then retrofitting is a wise idea.”

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