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Researcher assists Return Mission to Nepal

25 September 2022

Reconstruction efforts in Bhaktapur, Nepal in May 2023.

Dr Diana Contreras, Lecturer in Geospatial Sciences at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, contributes to the Return Mission to Nepal 2022.

In April 2015, a devasting earthquake hit Nepal, killing 8,790 people and injuring 22,300. Over 500,000 houses were destroyed and over 285,000 were partially damaged, forcing millions into homelessness. Public health facilities, hospitals and schools were destroyed or damaged, and centuries-old buildings were ruined at UNESCO Heritage sites.

The Return mission to Nepal aims to investigate its recovery and reconstruction, adopting a “build back better” approach. As part of these efforts, the Institution of Structural Engineers’ Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team (EEFIT) conducted a reconnaissance mission to try to understand the impacts of the earthquake and the vulnerabilities that must be reduced so future events will not be as severe.

Dr Diana Contreras’ role in the return mission was to evaluate recovery strategies by contributing to the component of public perception and resilience.

Diana validated the recovery assessment using social media data, including 183,361 tweets (174,641 original and 39,406 retweets). To verify the social media data, she visited Durbar Square in Kathmandu and the cities of Bhaktapur and Patan (Lalitpur Metropolitan City) to confirm the progress of the reconstruction of these UNESCO Heritage sites, as well as a health post in the rural municipality of Thakre, the Gorkha Palace and four schools. Her objective in the schools was also to support other team members in collecting information about the methods used to retrofit the structure.

A  discussion of post-disaster recovery practices via ludic activities was also led by Dr Contreras, with the participation of officials from the National Society for Earthquake Technology–Nepal (NSET), the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), and Scott Willson Nepal. This workshop was based on her research using creative learning to improve disaster response.

The ongoing results from the recovery assessment and the discussion of post-disaster recovery practices were presented on 13 September 2022 at the Institution of Structural Engineers' headquarters in London.

The final report with the findings will be submitted in January 2023.

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