Nepal in Need

by Kensatsukan Gaijin

Nepal is still reeling from a devastating 7.8M earthquake that struck on April 25th. Over 8,000 people have died and the quake destroyed homes and priceless historical landmarks throughout the nation.  The quake, which triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, was felt all over Asia and killed over a hundred people in India and China as well.  The world has struggled to respond and an international relief effort is underway to try to relieve Nepal in this terrible time.  Japan has responded as well, offering almost $10 million in aid and about 100 relief workers to assist in the effort.  Of course, Japan suffered a similar quake just a few years ago, in March of 2011.  Japan is hoping to share some of its experience with Nepal.  


For example, Shigeru Ban, an architect in Japan, is hoping to offer his expertise to Nepalese survivors whose homes have been destroyed.  In the short term, Ban’s firm and his relief organization Voluntary Architects’ Network (VAN) will distribute simple tents—supplemented with plastic sheets donated by contractors to serve as wall partitions—and assemble them onsite as temporary shelter and medical aid stations.  From there, he will work with local Nepalese students and businesses to develop more permanent structures so that people can rebuild their lives.  Ban has been designing emergency structures since the early 1990s, first deploying shelters in Rwanda in 1994 after civil unrest and genocide, and the next year in Kobe, Japan after a devestating earthquake. He has since deployed emergency shelters all over the world, using simple materials including corrugated plastic and paper tubes, with projects in Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, China, Haiti, Japan, and New Zealand. 


Ban’s goal is to provide low-cost but dignified housing for people in need.  Ban’s is temporarily earthquake-relief housing in Onagawa, Japan, for instance, was built from paper tubes and shipping containers for affordable and quick installation. The low-cost and recyclable structures are well designed to give refugees a sense of dignity in addition to shelter.


Japan has even sent a rescue dog that is already famous in Japan - Yumenosuke.  A stray dog that was scheduled to be put down, he was rescued by a relief organization and put to work in Hiroshima after a massive mudslide, where he saved four people trapped under debris.  The dog has now joined a team from Israel and search and rescue teams from Fairfax, Virginia and elsewhere to find survivors.  


The quake that devastated Nepal was part of global seismic activity that was felt in Japan as well.  In fact, the day before the quake, seismic disturbances brought a new land mass into existence off the coast of Hokkaido.  The new land mass has now risen over 50 feet above the water, is nearly 1,000 feet long, and nearly 30 feet wide.    


If you would like to donate to the Nepal relief effort, there are many organizations that could use your help.

Here is a link to Shigeru Ban’s organization:

And here is a link to the American Red Cross:






The Japan Times

Architectural Record