Nepal’s tourism among the quake victims

Nepal’s tourism among the quake victims

A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake ripped through parts of Nepal on Saturday, with powerful aftershocks of 6.7 magnitudes continuing to devastate the Himalayan nation.

Already, the death toll sits at over 3600 people, and while the search for survivors continues, the damage to Nepal’s city landscape and tourist attractions is equally as vast.

At least four out of seven Unesco World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu valley – three of them ancient city squares – were severely damaged in the quake, the worst the nation has seen in over 80 years.

According to the BBC, Nepali Times editor Kunda Dixit said the destruction was “culturally speaking an incalculable loss”, although he said monuments could be rebuilt.

In Bhaktapur, until now renowned as Nepal’s best preserved old city, reports say half of all homes have been destroyed and 80% of temples damaged.

The tremors reached as deep as 10km into the earth, and were enough to bring down centuries of Nepalese history in a matter of minutes.

Source: ALAMY / EPA

The Dharahara tower before and after the earthquake. Source: ALAMY / EPA

Among other buildings to collapse was the Dharahara tower, which once took up a large portion of the skyline in the capital Kathmandu.

Also known as the Bhimmsen Tower, the attraction was built by Nepal’s first prime minister in 1832, and was popular among tourists who would climb the more than 200 steps to the viewing deck at the top.

Pictures which appeared soon after the earthquake showed that Kathmandu’s Durbar, or noble court, square in the capital’s Old City, one of the UNESCO sites, has also been badly damaged, according to the BBC.

UNESCO had once called the collection of palaces, temples and courtyards “the social, religious and urban focal point” of Kathmandu.

Among the reports filtering out of the Himalayan nation, reports confirmed that two other Durbar squares, in Bhaktapur and Patan, had also fallen victim to the tremors.

The main temple in Bhaktapur’s square lost its roof, while the 16th Century Vatsala Durga temple, recognised for having pagodas decorated in gold, as well as ancient sandstone walls, was brought to the guornd in the 7.8 magnitude quake.

The Buddhist temple complex at Swayambhunath, founded in the 5th Century, has also been damaged, with video footage emerging from Nepal recently showing the toppled landmark shrouded by prayer flags.

There have been reports that the Boudhanath Stupa and Pashupatinath Hindu temple site were damaged too.

Kathmandu's Durbar square a few years before the earthquake

Kathmandu’s Durbar square a few years before the earthquake… Source: Siobhan Heanue

Kathmandu's Durbar square after the quake. Source: Siobhan Heanue

…And after the quake. Source: Siobhan Heanue

It is unclear whether all of these ancient monuments can, or will, be rebuilt.

Historian Prushottam Lochan Shrestha told the ekantipur.com website: “We have lost most of the monuments that had been designated as World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur [Patan].

“They cannot be restored to their original states.”

Despite the devastation, even more buildings were destroyed back in 1934, when a crippling earthquake reduced structures like the Dharahara tower to rubble.

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