Archive for the ‘Nepal’ Category

3 UK relief helicopters not allowed into Nepal as retaliation for prosecution of Nepalese Army officer

May 16, 2015

The report today is that 3 RAF Chinook helicopters, which were sent by the UK as part of the earthquake relief effort, have now returned after spending a week grounded in Delhi and never having even entered Nepal. The undertone in all the British reports is that this was an inexplicable and callous act of an incompetent Nepalese government.

But of course, there is more to the story than that and the roots lie in the Nepalese Army and its efforts against the Maoist terrorists in late 1990s and early 2000s. During the height of the conflict the UK intelligence services assisted the government but some retired British Army officers are known to have advised and helped the Maoist terrorists. Then in 2013 a Nepalese Army officer, Colonel Kumar Lama, was charged by the UK in London for torture against Maoist prisoners under the UN’s conventions.

Why Colonel Lama was singled out by the UK for prosecution was partly due to the fact that he had settled in “St Leonard-on-Sea, East Sussex, with his family. He had been serving as a UN peacekeeper in South Sudan shortly before being detained”. But it was also because the British Army officers – all now retired – who had helped the Maoists and some so-called human rights groups were either instigating or assisting the prosecution. Some of the Maoist leaders are now within the normal political process.

The bottom line is that the Nepalese government declined to accept the 3 RAF Chinook helicopters because of the prosecution – perceived as being totally unjustified – of Colonel Lama and the history of British mercenaries in helping the Maoist rebels. The UK has also been accused of assisting the government of the time against the Maoists and to have been complicit in some of the torture – which no doubt took place. But making Colonel Lama the scapegoat by mounting a prosecution in London has irritated the Nepalese government intensely.

The two decades of conflict was marked by abuse by both sides:

S Singh et al, Nepal’s war on human rightsInt J Equity Health. 2005; 4: 9.

…, both the Maoist rebels and the Royal Nepalese Army are engaged in regular intimidation and extortion leading to a climate of intense fear in Nepal. The government forces have resorted to large-scale arbitrary arrests, detentions, “disappearances”, extra judicial executions and torture including rape. Human rights defenders, including lawyers; journalists and members of NGO’s have been arrested, tortured, killed or “disappeared” in Nepal. Nepal held the unique distinction for the highest number of “disappearances” of any country in 2003 and 2004. The Maoists have resorted to torture and deliberate and unlawful killings. According to INSEC (Informal Sector Service Centre), a human rights organisation, nearly 3000 people were killed and about 26,000 people were abducted in 2004 in Nepal. The Maoists have abducted civilians, including teachers and schoolchildren for the purpose of ‘political indoctrination’. 

Sources:

BBCThree RAF Chinook helicopters sent to Nepal to help the aid effort in the country are to return to the UK having not been used, the government has said. The CH47 Chinooks left the UK two weeks ago to help transport “life-saving aid supplies” and reach stranded victims “in desperate need” of help.

But the helicopters have been grounded in Delhi, in India, for the past week. The Ministry of Defence said it was “disappointed”, saying the decision had been made by the Nepalese government. An MoD spokesman said the Nepalese government, while thanking the UK for the offer, had said the helicopters will not take part in the relief effort.

The GuardianA Nepalese army officer has gone on trial at the Old Bailey accused of torturing two alleged Maoist rebels in his homeland 10 years ago. The prosecution of Lieutenant Colonel Kumar Lama, 47, was brought before a London court because of the UK’s obligations under the UN convention against torture to bring suspects to justice wherever they are detained. Torture, like war crimes, is subject to universal jurisdiction, allowing those who allegedly committed crimes abroad to be tried in Britain.

Lama was arrested in 2013 after settling in St Leonard-on-Sea, East Sussex, with his family. He had been had been serving as a UN peacekeeper in South Sudan shortly before being detained. Charged with presiding over the torture of two men – Janak Raut and Karam Hussain – while in charge of Gorusinghe barracks in Kapilvastu in 2005, Lama denies both counts of inflicting severe pain or suffering.

The prosecution has been brought under section 134 (sub-section 1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. The colonel has indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Opening the case, prosecutor Bobbie Cheema QC said: “The authorities in this country have an obligation in cases where torture is alleged to have been committed if the alleged perpetrators are found within England. “This commitment to prosecute alleged torturers even if the torture happened in an entirely different country and continent is sometimes called the principle of providing no safe haven for torturers.”

Southasia.comAnnapurna Dainik, a Nepali-language newspaper, has claimed the government took the ‘informal decision’ of not allowing the three Chinook helicopters to enter the Nepali airspace because of the arrest and prosecution of Nepalese Army’s Colonel Kumar Lama as well as for the relationship that existed between a senior British Army officer (now retired) and the Maoist guerrillas while they were still in war with the state. …

….. The Royal Air Force flew the helicopters in a transporter aircraft on April 30. It is understood they were originally planned to be flown straight to Kathmandu for reassembly but the aircraft carrying them was diverted to New Delhi when the Tribhuvan International Airport became clogged with relief flights due to the limited number of runways.

The GuardianBritish authorities have been accused of funding a four-year intelligence operation in Nepal that led to Maoist rebels being arrested, tortured and killed during the country’s civil war.

Thomas Bell, the author of a new book on the conflict, says MI6 funded safe houses and provided training in surveillance and counter-insurgency tactics to Nepal’s army and spy agency, the National Investigation Department (NID) under “Operation Mustang”, launched in 2002.

Nepal’s decade-long civil war left more than 16,000 dead, with rebels and security forces accused of serious human rights violations including killings, rapes, torture and disappearances.

“According to senior Nepalese intelligence and army officials involved in the operation, British aid greatly strengthened their performance and led to about 100 arrests,” said Bell, whose book Kathmandu is released in south Asia on Thursday. “It’s difficult to put an exact number on it, but certainly some of those who were arrested were tortured and disappeared,” he said.

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Great Himalayan earthquake is still waiting to happen

April 27, 2015

This earthquake in Nepal – devastating as it was – has not released enough of the pent-up strain under the Himalayas. The death toll now exceeds 3,500 and most are due to collapsing buildings.

It would need about 50 such quakes with magnitude 7.9  or one super quake of magnitude 9 to release all the slip built up over centuries. The Indian tectonic plate is being subducted under the Eurasian tectonic plate with the Indian Plate moving North East at about 6 -7 cm per year while the Eurasian Plate is moving Northwards at about 2 cm per year. There is a net 2 – 3 cm of slip to be accumulated – or to be relieved by some form of energy release – every year.

The Great Himalayan Earthquake has still to come. The scale of loss of life and devastation will be magnified greatly if the Great quake is located in the central Himalayas such that the tremors extend into the densely populated Gangetic Plain. The central Himalayas have not seen any large quakes for about 700 years and the pent-up energy is ominous. It is highly unlikely that either in Nepal or in the vulnerable regions of India, that buildings will be sufficiently “earthquake-proofed” to minimise the loss of life (and over 90% of the loss of life is due to the collapse of buildings).

Down to Earth: … It has been hypothesised for long that a large earthquake, called the “great Himalayan earthquake”, can strike anytime, but its time and place cannot be predicted. In many locations in the Himalayan belt there is enough energy stored currently to lead to one.

At a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale, the April 25 earthquake has caused devastation but it is not the anticipated “great Himalayan earthquake”.  This does not qualify as a great earthquake which needs to be of magnitude 8, says Roger Bilham, geologist with the University of Colorado Boulder who studies the seismicity of the Himalayan area. “The earthquake is in a region that is being compressed by18 mm each year,” he says. The amount today’s earthquake slip would have been exactly right to release all this accumulated stress, he adds. His team has identified some areas where the great Himalayan earthquake is anticipated (see image). The question mark shows the area where an earthquake is potentially possible but the magnitude is not known.

himakayan

Anticipated Himalayan Earthquakes

 “This (Nepal earthquake) has unfortunately not come as a surprise. We expected an earthquake of high magnitude in the region between Kathmandu and Pokhara,” says Paul Tapponnier from Nanyang Technological University’s Earth Observatory of Singapore who also studies earthquakes in the area. Tapponnier’s earlier work showed that the quakes in 1255 and 1934 were ground-breaking quakes or when ruptures develop in the earth’s crust and the pent up energy in the earth is released. As the areas west or east of the 1934 Nepal ground rupture do not have records of earthquakes, they are at a greater risk of a major earthquake.

In a paper published just two months ago scientists from the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research conclude that “the frontal thrust in central Himalaya may have remained seismically inactive during the last ~700 years. Considering this long elapsed time, a great earthquake may be due in the region”.

The Himalaya has experienced three great earthquakes during the last century—1934 Nepal-Bihar, 1950 Upper Assam, and arguably the 1905 Kangra. Focus here is on the central Himalayan segment between the 1905 and the 1934 ruptures, where previous studies have identified a great earthquake between thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. Historical data suggest damaging earthquakes in A.D. 1255, 1344, 1505, 1803, and 1833, although their sources and magnitudes remain debated. ….. Age data suggest that the last great earthquake in the central Himalaya most likely occurred between A.D. 1259 and 1433. While evidence for this rupture is unmistakable, the stratigraphic clues imply an earlier event, which can most tentatively be placed between A.D. 1050 and 1250. …. Rupture(s) identified in the trench closely correlate with two damaging earthquakes of 1255 and 1344 reported from Nepal. The present study suggests that the frontal thrust in central Himalaya may have remained seismically inactive during the last ~700 years. Considering this long elapsed time, a great earthquake may be due in the region.

Other scientists also estimate that this current quake has dissipated only a very small part of the energy stored under the Himalayas and waiting to be released:

Indian Express:

“We know there is a huge amount of accumulated strain in this area. It is due for a major earthquake, perhaps a series of earthquakes, bigger than 8 on the Richter scale. That is the kind of energy that is estimated to be accumulated there. This was certainly not one of those earthquakes that is probably imminent. In terms of energy release, I would say this would not have released even four or five per cent of the energy that is estimated to be stored there,” said Harsh K Gupta, former director of the Hyderabad-based National Geophysical Research Institute and a former member of the National Disaster Management Authority.

Prof Sankar Kumar Nath of IIT Kharagpur, who has studied seismic activity in the Himalayan region, said the energy released from Saturday’s earthquake “was equivalent to the explosion of about 100mn tonnes of TNT, comparable to the energy in detonation of small nuclear bombs”.

“This earthquake would only be classified as medium in terms of energy released. That area, the 2500-km stretch from the Hindukush region to the end of Arunachal Pradesh, is capable of generating much bigger earthquakes, even nine on Richter scale,” he said.

“If you look at it differently, we are actually lucky that only a 7.9-magnitude earthquake has come. I would be very happy to have a few 7.9-magnitude earthquakes than a 9-magnitude earthquake which would be absolute disaster. The trouble is that in terms of energy release, which is what causes the damage, it would take 40 to 50 earthquakes of magnitude 7.9 to avoid an earthquake of magnitude 9,” he said.

Death toll in Nepal still rising as aftershocks put rescue efforts on hold

April 26, 2015

A strong 6.7 magnitude aftershock hit Nepal this morning, 25 hours after the primary quake, as the death toll continues to climb. At least 30 shocks of magnitude greater than 4.0 have been felt. Kathmandu airport which was open has been closed till 4pm local time because of the aftershocks. Rescue efforts have been put on hold while the aftershocks continue. Air Traffic Control staff have been evacuated from the airport for now.

Indian Air Force Mi-17 helicopters reached Mount Everest and began ferrying injured back to Kathmandu with the first relief flights reaching this morning. So far the IAF has deployed 5 helicopters and another 6 are on their way. It is feared that 65 mountaineers on Mt. Everest may have been killed at the base camp and in the avalanche yesterday. The aftershocks have caused at least 3 further avalanches on Everest today.

Tremors from the aftershocks have been felt in Delhi, UP, Bihar, W.Bengal, and Assam. The final toll may exceed 2,000 as rescuers reach more remote regions.

USGS:

  1. Aftershock: 6.7 magnitude, 17km S of Kodari, Nepal2015-04-26,  07:09:08 UTC, 10.0 km deep
  2. Secondary quake: 6.6 magnitude, 49km E of Lamjung, Nepal2015-04-25, 06:45:21 UTC, 14.6 km deep
  3. Primary quake: 7.8 magnitude, 34km ESE of Lamjung, Nepal, 2015-04-25, 06:11:26 UTC, 15.0 km deep

Both India and China see Nepal as being within their natural “sphere of influence” and a hint of that competition is visible as the two countries now lead the international rescue efforts. In addition to a Chinese medical team that was already in Nepal, three further medical teams from neighboring Sichuan, Chongqing and Yunnan have gone to Tibet.

Xinhua:A 62-strong China International Search & Rescue Team left for Nepal early Sunday. With six sniffer dogs and relevant rescue and medical equipment, the team is expected to arrive in Kathmandu midday Sunday on a chartered plane, according to the China Earthquake Administration.

India sent two relief planes of air force to disaster-struck zones hours after the quake took place. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up his Nepalese counterpart Sushil Koirala, and assured him of all help. Two military aircraft, a C-130 Hercules and a C17 Globemaster, took off from the Hindon air base in Delhi to Kathmandu with relief workers, medicines and blankets, said Press Trust of India.

Disaster teams from the UK, US and Israel are already on their way as well and many other countries have offered assistance.


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