Nepal quake toll could be between 26,000 and more than 1,00,000: Swiss expert

  • Utpal Prashar, Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
  • Updated: May 03, 2015 00:37 IST

Last week's devastating earthquake in Nepal has claimed more than 6,200 lives and a Geneva-based agency says the final figure could be anywhere between 26,000 and more than 100,000.

The International Centre for Earth Simulation (ICES) said its estimate is based on the temblor’s intensity, area, the population affected and damage to structures.

Calculations made by acclaimed Swiss geophysicist Max Wyss put the minimum death toll at 26,297, which is much higher than the Nepal government’s estimate, and the maximum figure at more than 100,000.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said he believes the death toll could touch 10,000.

The ICES also calculated two other figures – a low of 45,233 and a mean of 57,019 – for possible fatalities in the 7.9-magnitude quake that affected nearly 8 million people in 12 districts.

“My tested program calculates that 57,700 fatalities are to be expected overall," Wyss told Hindustan Times over phone and email from Geneva on Saturday.

The earthquake risk expert described the figure mentioned by Koirala as an "uninformed statement" and said his own estimates are far closer to the truth than those from other sources.

Wyss has more than 12 years of experience in calculating fatalities in earthquakes and had earlier correctly estimated the final death tolls of the massive temblors in Kashmir in 2005 and in China's Sichuan in 2008.

The ICES estimates put the number of injured at a minimum of more than 94,000 and a maximum of more than 321,000. The official figure for the injured is around 14,500.

A week after the quake, Nepalese authorities still have no information on how many people are missing in the worst affected districts. It is estimated it will take nearly a month to ascertain exactly how many people died.

Wyss said in eight cities and towns, including the capital Kathmandu, with a population of more than 60,000 each, the death toll would be near 6,500. In 2,500 other settlements with populations of less than 60,000, the figure could touch 41,000.

He was of the opinion that correct estimation of loss within a few hours of such a disaster enables authorities to act immediately.

"There is a guarantee that during the next three to four generations, another 50,000 to 100,000 humans will perish in an earthquake in the Himalayan collision zone," said Wyss.

He said the actual death toll in Nepal may never be known as many people could have died in rural and hilly regions inaccessible by roads.

"I believe that this number (estimated by the Nepal government) is not based on any professional estimate," said Wyss.

Not everyone, however, agrees with his figures.

The US Geological Society and Miyamoto International, a US-based earthquake and structural engineering firm, believe the final death toll could be somewhere close to 10,000, close to the estimates of Nepalese authorities.


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