Earth-bag building still standing after Nepal quake

Sunday 3 May 2015 6:22 p.m.

They say earthquakes don't kill people, but buildings do – no more so than in Nepal where entire villages have been flattened.

But in the rural village of Sangachok, there is one building that is still standing, all thanks to the handiwork of a team half a world away.

In Sangachok, there is destruction as far as the eye can see, but among the rubble and crumbled buildings there is some good news, and what could be a lesson for Nepal in earthquake resilience.

Nelson-based First Steps Himalaya raised money to build the training centre for teachers to improve education in rural Nepal. The building remains standing even after the earthquake.

Volunteers from New Zealand and Nepal used rice bags filled with soil, which are laid out like bricks, covered with chicken wire and then plastered over.

The Auckland company that helped construct it hopes it can deliver much more than that.

"We could try and get these earth-bag buildings moving forward to the villages, and get them to start to use that simple product," says Cameron Court of Court Construction.

"The real kicker is that it can wobble a little bit, and so you've got a bit of earthquake resistance as opposed to sheer mud walls, mud brick walls, or most of the buildings are done out of the Kathmandu brick, which is terribly bad for the environment."

The building was only finished six days before the earthquake, and is a welcome sight in the village of 3000 where accommodation is now scarce. 

"We know they are using it as a shelter because 90 percent of the area around there is flattened," Mr Court says.

For First Steps Himalaya charity founder Durga Aran it is a glimmer of hope for a nation in crisis that, with enough fundraising, the Nepalese might now be able to construct safe buildings, one earth-bag at a time.

People wishing to donate to First Steps Himalaya can do so through its appeal on its website or on Facebook. 

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