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'Comparing then and now is heartbreaking': Climber reflects on disrepair in Nepal one year after devastating earthquake

On April 25, 2015, a powerful earthquake shook Nepal and the surrounding areas, causing catastrophic damage, widespread panic and economic loss.

One year later, the nation is still recovering with a slow progress back to normalcy.

Last year's 7.8-magnitude earthquake was one of the strongest on record for Nepal with the epicenter just 51 miles (82 km) away from Kathmandu, the nation's capital.

Dozens of aftershocks jolted the region in the weeks following the April earthquake with the largest aftershock registering as a 7.3 on the Richter scale.

While these aftershocks were not quite as powerful as the initial quake, they were strong enough to cause some buildings that only sustained minor damage during the first quake to collapse.

Over 8,800 fatalities and 22,000 injuries were reported from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks, according to the Government of Nepal. Additionally, nearly 900,000 structures were either partially or fully damaged across Nepal.

The initial earthquake had a major impact on the nation's economy with economic losses estimated at up to $10 billion USD, roughly half of the country's total GDP.

Lara Miller, from California, was was visiting Nepal on a mountaineering trip last year with Satori Expeditions when the earthquake struck. At the time, Miller was near Pokhara, just west of the epicenter of the 7.8-magnitude tremor.

"From the moment the earthquake happened until I landed in the United States, everything was blur for me," Miller said. "It felt like I was in a disaster movie."

"Making it to Kathmandu [after the earthquake] was very difficult and everyone was headed in the opposite direction," Miller added.

Miller was just one of hundreds of thousands of people who had a difficult time traveling through Nepal in the wake of the disaster. Many roads were impassable due to the unstable earth, landslides and avalanches.

Weather conditions also hindered rescue and cleanup efforts across Nepal. Rain, thunderstorms and mountain snow made it difficult for helicopters to reach isolated villages that were cut off from the outside world.

One year later, some parts of the country are still picking up the pieces, including the capital city.

"Kathmandu is still a mess," Miller said. "Durbar Square in particular looks like the earthquake happened yesterday."

Some buildings still require extra supports to keep them from falling over while they await structural repairs.

While some parts of Nepal still have a long road to recovery, other parts are making progress.

One of the biggest steps forward is the reduction in the number of tent cities that popped up across the country last year.

After more than half of a million people lost their homes, many used tents as temporary shelter. The temporary tents became problematic once the monsoon season began.

Not only did monsoon-fueled storms pose threats for those living in tents, but also problems for crews trying to deliver food and water to outlying areas that were cut off from the outside world.

According to Miller, who returned to Nepal early in April 2016, the number of tent cities has visibly decreased. This is good news ahead of this year's monsoon season.

For people in remote areas of the country still working on finding more permeant housing, there is still several weeks to prepare for the rain brought on by the monsoon.

The onset of this year's monsoon is expected to spread westward across Nepal around the middle of June and last into September, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.

"With a weakening El Niño and a possible transition to La Niña, this year's monsoon will be wetter [than last year]," Nicholls said.

While Nepal is recovering, the country will never be quite the same following the devastation left behind by last year's earthquakes.

"I was lucky enough to visit Kathmandu a few weeks before the earthquake," Miller said. "Comparing then to now is heartbreaking. But yet, life goes on, despite the daily aftershocks and destruction."


Questions or comments? Email Brian Lada at Brian.Lada@accuweather.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter!

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