A Nepalese resident sits near collapsed and damaged buildings on Sunday. Photo: Getty
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Kathmandu mourns earthquake's victims and continues search for survivors

It is now estimated that the death toll could reach ten thousand.

This Saturday, a massive earthquake hit Nepal. As of this morning, the death toll was above 4,000, and over 6,500 others have been injured. While the earthquake's epicentre lay somewhere between Kathmandu, the country's capital, and Pokhara, a village to its west, there were casualties across the country's borders into China and India. 

The tremors only lasted for about a minute, but the quake's high magnitude – which, at 7.8, was higher than 2010's Haiti earthquake – meant that buildings across Kathmandu were flattened, while almost every home in Pokhara was destroyed. In the Himalayas and nearby settlements, the tremors caused landslides and avalanches. Many who were trekking in the mountains at the time of the quake are still missing. In the Kathmandu Valley, at least four of the area's seven UNESCO heritage sites have been badly damaged. 

Kathmandu lies on what scientists call "an area of high seismic activity". The same tectonic plates that smashed together to create some of the world's tallest mountains cause earthquakes when they shift and rub together; as a result, the area experiences a serious quake around every 70 to 80 years. The last, in 1934, killed over 10,000 people. Since then, the city's massive expansion has brought with it an explosion informal housing and communities built with little regard for building codes and earthquake resistance. It's only in the past ten years that municipal and national governments have rolled out risk management plans. The Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium, for example, set about retrofitting schools and hospitals for natural disasters from 2009. 

This latest quake, however, shows that's there's still much more to be done. Alongside its rebuilding efforts, the city needs to invest in earthquake-ready buildings, and regulations which would make them standard across the city. In December we published this article, by Nepalese journalist Rubeena Mahato, looking at both the expansion of Kathmandu, and its earthquake readiness; it's well worth a few minutes of your time.

Below are some pictures of the earthquake's aftermath. You can donate to relief efforts through Oxfam, the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders or Save the Children

Residents inspect a crack in a major road. 

A member of the Nepalese security forces sets up a tent in Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu

Reidents gather around the collapsed Dharahara tower

A helicopter rescues the injured from Everest base camp

A resident plays with his daughter as he is treated for injuries

A Buddha statue is surrounded by debris from a collapsed temple in the UNESCO world heritage site of Bhaktapur

A Dutch search and rescue team with tracker dogs get ready to search for survivors

A collapsed temple in Kathmandu's city centre

All images: Getty

This article first appeared on the New Statesman’s sister site CityMetric.

Citymetric is the New Statesman’s sister site covering the business, politics, design and transport of the world’s cities.

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After Article 50 is triggered, what happens next?

The UK must prepare for years, if not decades, of negotiating. 

Back in June, when Europe woke to the news of Brexit, the response was muted. “When I first emerged from my haze to go to the European Parliament there was a big sign saying ‘We will miss you’, which was sweet,” Labour MEP Seb Dance remembered at a European Parliament event in London. “The German car industry said we don’t want any disruption of trade.”

But according to Dance – best known for holding up a “He’s Lying” sign behind Nigel Farage’s head – the mood has hardened with the passing months.

The UK is seen as demanding. The Prime Minister’s repeated refusal to guarantee EU citizens’ rights is viewed as toxic. The German car manufacturers now say the EU is more important than British trade. “I am afraid that bonhomie has evaporated,” Dance said. 

On 31 March the UK will trigger Article 50. Doing so will end our period of national soul-searching and begin the formal process of divorce. So what next?

The European Parliament will have its say

In the EU, just as in the UK, the European Parliament will not be the lead negotiator. But it is nevertheless very powerful, because MEPs can vote on the final Brexit deal, and wield, in effect, a veto.

The Parliament’s chief negotiator is Guy Verhofstadt, a committed European who has previously given Remoaners hope with a plan to offer them EU passports. Expect them to tune in en masse to watch when this idea is revived in April (it’s unlikely to succeed, but MEPs want to discuss the principle). 

After Article 50 is triggered, Dance expects MEPs to draw up a resolution setting out its red lines in the Brexit negotiations, and present this to the European Commission.

The European Commission will spearhead negotiations

Although the Parliament may provide the most drama, it is the European Commission, which manages the day-to-day business of the EU, which will lead negotiations. The EU’s chief negotiator is Michel Barnier. 

Barnier is a member of the pan-EU European People’s Party, like Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He has said of the negotiations: “We are ready. Keep calm and negotiate.”

This will be a “deal” of two halves

The Brexit divorce is expected to take 16 to 18 months from March (although this is simply guesswork), which could mean Britain officially Brexits at the start of 2019.

But here’s the thing. The divorce is likely to focus on settling up bills and – hopefully – agreeing a transitional arrangement. This is because the real deal that will shape Britain’s future outside the EU is the trade deal. And there’s no deadline on that. 

As Dance put it: “The duration of that trade agreement will exceed the life of the current Parliament, and might exceed the life of the next as well.”

The trade agreement may look a bit like Ceta

The European Parliament has just approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) with Canada, a mammoth trade deal which has taken eight years to negotiate. 

One of the main stumbling points in trade deals is agreeing on similar regulatory standards. The UK currently shares regulations with the rest of the UK, so this should speed up the process.

But another obstacle is that national or regional parliaments can vote against a trade deal. In October, the rebellious Belgian region of Wallonia nearly destroyed Ceta. An EU-UK deal would be far more politically sensitive. 

The only way is forward

Lawyers working for the campaign group The People’s Challenge have argued that it will legally be possible for the UK Parliament to revoke Article 50 if the choice is between a terrible deal and no deal at all. 

But other constitutional experts think this is highly unlikely to work – unless a penitent Britain can persuade the rest of the EU to agree to turn back the clock. 

Davor Jancic, who lectures on EU law at Queen Mary University of London, believes Article 50 is irrevocable. 

Jeff King, a professor of law at University College London, is also doubtful, but has this kernel of hope for all the Remainers out there:

“No EU law scholar has suggested that with the agreement of the other 27 member states you cannot allow a member state to withdraw its notice.”

Good luck chanting that at a march. 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.