Nepal Earthquake 2015 Featured

How The Devastating Nepal Earthquake Of 2015 Shook A Country To Its Core

Published July 27, 2023
Updated July 28, 2023

On April 25, 2015, the Nepal Earthquake struck some 50 miles from Kathmandu, triggering a national catastrophe that killed 9,000 and injured tens of thousands more.

On April 25, 2015, a devastating earthquake struck Nepal. It was felt from Nepal itself to nearby India and Tibet, and even to the peaks of Mount Everest. The Nepal earthquake of 2015 claimed 9,000 lives and stands as one of the worst natural disasters in Nepal’s history.

The disaster struck just before noon, and sent a wave of destruction from its epicenter northwest of Kathmandu. In addition to those it killed, the 7.8-magnitude earthquake destroyed 600,000 structures in Kathmandu, injured more than 22,000, and terrified millions with powerful aftershocks.

It also reached Mount Everest, triggering an avalanche that killed at least 19 mountaineers. To date, it’s the deadliest day in Everest’s history.

Discover the horrific story of the Nepal earthquake of 2015.

The Devastating Nepal Earthquake Of 2015

At first, April 25, 2015 seemed like a normal day in Nepal. People bustled to and fro, and mountaineers at their base camp on Mount Everest prepared for their climb. But at 11:56 a.m., the earth began to shake.

As reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, the earthquake was a result of the Indian Plate slowly pushing under the Eurasian Plate. The sudden thrust of these plates released an enormous amount of energy, manifesting in an extremely powerful earthquake that thundered through the region.

Damaged Building In Kathmandu

Manju Shakya(manto17)/Wikimedia CommonsA partially collapsed building in Kathmandu following the Nepal earthquake of 2015.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck about 50 miles north from Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. It occurred at a dangerous depth of about five miles beneath the earth, making it a shallow earthquake capable of great damage, and was felt in India, China, and Bangladesh.

Sajiya Gurung, a resident of Kathmandu, was sitting at home watching TV when the earthquake began.

“It was terrifying,” Gurung told the BBC. “Everything in the house started falling down. I quickly ran outside, as did all my neighbours.”

Across Nepal, millions of people had similar experiences, as captured by CCTV footage. Many were panic-stricken and confused, as Nepal had not had an earthquake of a similar magnitude since 1934.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people on Mount Everest also felt the earthquake.

“I knew it was an earthquake,” mountain climber Jim Davidson later told The Guardian, recounting that he saw his tent leap eight inches above the ground. “We would be in extremely serious trouble at some point.”

Indeed, the earthquake triggered an avalanche which destroyed multiple camps and killed at least 19 people on the mountain. But the overall death toll for the Nepal earthquake of 2015 would be much, much higher.

Immediate Aftermath Of The Nepal Earthquake

Impact Of Nepal Earthquake

Dinodia Photos / Alamy Stock PhotoBefore long, the devastating toll of the Nepal earthquake of 2015 became clear.

In the days to come, the impact of the Nepal earthquake became tragically clear. Some 9,000 people had lost their lives, and almost 22,000 were injured. The United Nations found that some eight million people, more than one-fourth of the entire country, was affected by the disaster.

From the capital to more remote villages, Nepali citizens everywhere felt its impact.

“The quake of epic proportion turned the whole village into a crematory,” Gothelal Gurung, whose village of Barpak was almost completely destroyed, told The Kathmandu Post while rummaging around the rubble of what once was his home.

Sandesh Kaji Shrestha, a resident of Kathmandu, similarly told the BBC that the quake had devastated the capital.

“Some areas are completely destroyed,” Shrestha said. “I have been helping to pull people and bodies out of the rubble, along with my friend. We pulled a child out with its grandmother earlier. They did not survive. It has been a very bad experience and a terrible and very difficult day… We need help.”

Few places were spared. In the Kathmandu Valley, the earthquake damaged several UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Patan Durbar Square, the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the Changu Narayan Temple, the Boudhanath stupa, and the Swayambhunath stupa. Some of these sites are hundreds if not thousands of years old.

To make matters even worse, several aftershocks followed the initial quake. The first struck just a few minutes after the original earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6. A day later, a 6.9-magnitude aftershock struck.

Nepal Aftershock Map

United States Geological SurveyMap of the aftershock earthquakes that struck Nepal in 2015.

The most devastating aftershock came on May 12, 2015 when a 7.3-magnitude aftershock struck near the China-Nepal border between Kathmandu and Mount Everest. It killed 153 people in Nepal, 62 in India, two in Bangladesh, and one in China.

“I was in a valley surrounded by tall mountains when the ground started to shake,” BBC News employee Yogita Limaye recounted. “It felt like it went on for a very long time. Dust and stones started falling off the mountains nearby. ‘It’s happening again, it’s happening again’ was a cry I heard.”

The Lasting Impacts Of The Devastating Natural Disaster

The devastation from the 2015 Nepal earthquake and the subsequent aftershocks was deep. Thousands had lost their lives and millions had lost their homes. To many, the devastation highlighted how unprepared Nepal was for such a natural disaster.

Women Mourning The Dead

PixelPro / Alamy Stock PhotoWomen mourning the dead after the 2015 Nepal earthquake, which killed some 9,000 people. May 2015.

“It seems that the rural-to-urban migration of people has resulted in really rapid construction of housing which, as far as I can see from my visits, has been unregulated and is just very, very vulnerable,” Brian Tucker, founder and president of GeoHazards International, an organization that aims to reduce casualties from natural disasters, stated to the The Sydney Morning Herald.

And while countries, NGOs, and other organizations provided both monetary and other aid, Nepal is still rebuilding from the devastating natural disaster, which cost the country some six billion dollars. Plus, there remains a very real fear that it will happen again.

“We knew [the April 2015 earthquake] was going to happen. We saw it in ’34,” said Susan Hough, a geologist with the US Geological Survey, to The Sydney Morning Herald. “The earthquakes we expect to happen do happen.”

Yet prior to the April 25 earthquake, many Nepalese officials had doubted whether such a disaster was even possible.

In the late 1990s, Tucker spoke with a Nepalese government minister who stated, “We don’t have to worry about earthquakes anymore, because we already had an earthquake [in 1934].”

Tucker reportedly looked at the minister, and then pointed to a window with a sweeping view of the nearby mountain range.

“As long as you see those Himalaya Mountains there,” he warned, “you will know that you will continue to have earthquakes.”

After reading about the devastating 2015 Nepal earthquake, discover the story of the destructive 1906 earthquake that set San Francisco ablaze. Then, delve into these fascinating facts about Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world.

Amber Morgan
Amber Morgan is an Editorial Fellow for All That's Interesting. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science, history, and Russian. Previously, she worked as a content creator for America House Kyiv, a Ukrainian organization focused on inspiring and engaging youth through cultural exchanges.
Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Citation copied
Cite This Article
Morgan, Amber. "How The Devastating Nepal Earthquake Of 2015 Shook A Country To Its Core.", July 27, 2023, Accessed June 16, 2024.