Retrofitted school buildings withstood jolts

- PRAGATI SHAHI, Kathmandu
Retrofitted school buildings withstood jolts

May 16, 2015-

While thousands of school buildings collapsed due to the magnitude 7.9 earthquake, around 175 public school buildings—160 of them in Kathmandu Valley—survived the Great Quake without facing any structural damage. They also became shelters for local communities when people left their homes for safety in the past couple of weeks.

The school buildings stood tall even as the houses in their vicinity crumbled as the former were retrofitted—building modification through methods such as wall jacketing and use of steel bars or galvanised wire mesh—to make them resistant to seismic activity. It means making changes or rectifying a deficiency in the structure or system, both outside and inside a building, to resist tremors.

“There was no damage to our school building. We were able to shelter around 500 people,” said Tika Ram Timsina, principal of Tri Padmodaya School in Lalitpur that was retrofitted about four years ago.

Of the around 2,500 schools in the Valley, some 650 are public schools. Though the damage to the school infrastructure across the country is yet to be estimated, preliminary findings of the Department of Education (DoE) released last week showed that 668 public schools collapsed while 2,228 were damaged.

More than 7,000 classrooms are reported to have been destroyed so far. According to the DoE, private schools suffered more damage than public schools as the government had retrofitted some and built many new structures in the past decade.

According to Giridhar Mishra, an engineer with the DoE, none of the 175 schools, including 160 inside the Valley, suffered any significant structural damage. Mishra, who is associated with the School Earthquake Safety Programme, said the preliminary findings of a field inspection conducted in the quake aftermath found that the retrofitted schools withstood the jolt.

“We have been prioritising seismic safety in newly constructed buildings, and retrofitting the existing structures, depending on their vulnerability to earthquakes,” said Mishra. Several public school buildings in Taplejung, Dhankuta, Illam, Jhapa and Kailali have also been strengthened.

Experts said the lack of adequate technical and financial resources such as trained engineers, masons, and other construction workers has made the extension of the earthquake safety programme difficult.

“Ensuring earthquake safety is our top priority while rebuilding new structures and reconstructing the damaged ones. This will secure school property and students,” said DoE Director General Dilli Ram Rimal.

Published: 17-05-2015 08:15

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