Building typologies and failure modes observed in the 2015 Gorkha (Nepal) earthquake
Nepal is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, and at the same time is one of the most economically deprived. On 25 April 2015 mid-western Nepal was hit by the devastating Gorkha earthquake measuring Mw 7.8 with the epicentre located 76 km north-west of Kathmandu. The earthquake was followed by a series of aftershocks, with the most significant occurring on 12 May 2015 with Mw 7.3 and an epicentre located north-east of Kathmandu. The earthquake and the associated aftershocks resulted in the destruction of half a million buildings, leaving millions of people homeless and causing a loss of more than $3.5 billion (USD) to the housing sector alone. Approximately 9,000 people were killed and over 23,000 people were injured - mostly due to damaged or collapsed buildings.
A number of documents have been published pertaining to general observations following the 2015 Gorkha earthquake and aftershocks. Here the common building typologies and related failure modes observed during inspection surveys by the authors who were part of the various reconnaissance teams following the earthquakes are summarised. A brief background on the 2015 Gorkha earthquake is provided with an outline of the tectonic environment and seismological background of Nepal and a brief summary of previous earthquake activities in the region is presented. Common construction practices identified during the reconnaissance are illustrated and briefly explained to provide context to the observed earthquake damage, with an emphasis placed on unreinforced masonry (URM) building typologies and construction practices. Comparisons between URM building damage and published macro-element failure modes are provided using various photographic and schematic examples. Commonly observed failure modes and potential causes of failure are also highlighted for buildings constructed of reinforced concrete (RC) frames with masonry infill. A brief review of adopted temporary shoring techniques is also included.
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