Two years ago, I asked a top UN expert in disaster to describe the one scenario that keeps him up at night. Without hesitation he said that an intense earthquake in Kathamndu would be a monumental catastrophe that could kill as many as 250,000 to 400,000 people. He was not alone in this estimation. I’d heard humanitarian relief workers say the same thing.

On Saturday, April 25 a massive earthquake struck Nepal. And while the damage and destruction is immense and tragic, it was not the cataclysm he predicted. Why was that? How was this nightmare scenario avoided?

This week, I caught back up with that same expert, Jo Scheuer of the United Nations Development Program, as he was on his way to Nepal to survey the damage. In the conversation below, he explains how a combination of good luck and preparation helped to limit the scale of the destruction. He further describes the lessons Nepal’s experience can teach the international community about how to invest in sustainable development that takes into account a region’s risk for natural disaster.

This is obviously a timely conversation for the fact that we focus on the events in Nepal. But the long term lessons of what happened are also exceedingly important to the international development community and beyond. Have a listen.

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