28 April 2015
The timing is hard to believe.
Just days before a huge earthquake devastated parts of Nepal, the Red Cross opened the country’s first solar-powered blood bank. A blood bank specially designed to withstand earthquakes – and save lives in the days and weeks that followed.
Find out more about this incredible building.
Why is it solar-powered?
Power supply in the capital Kathmandu was knocked out completely following Saturday’s earthquake. It has only been partly fixed. The city suffered regular power cuts even before the disaster.
The blood bank designers knew power would be a massive problem after a disaster. That’s why the building has solar panels on its south-east facing roof, which is angled to catch as much of the sunlight as possible.
As well as charging the building’s equipment, the panels power up batteries to give reserve power. There’s a separate back-up generator, too.
Everything’s been designed with electricity in mind – even the fridges are designed to consume less than normal models.
What does the building do?
First, it has room to safely store 560 litres of blood. Blood can be collected at hospitals and other sites around the city – but if their electricity fails, the precious supplies might go to waste.
Donations can also be made at the blood bank itself. And staff can check donated blood for diseases, protecting the patients who receive it.
Finally, there’s space for staff to sleep – so the centre can keep working around the clock.
The blood bank is in an ideal location in the suburb of Lalitpur, right next to an important road that connects many of the city’s key locations.
How can it survive earthquakes?
The innovative two-storey building is the first in Kathmandu to be made from shipping containers. These steel boxes, originally produced to move cargo around the world, are relatively cheap and less likely to be damaged by earthquakes than brick or concrete buildings.
The containers are bolted together to make them stronger. The equipment inside is attached to the walls to cut the risk of damage during an earthquake.
“All we can do is prepare”
The new £240,000 building is just one way we’ve helped people in Kathmandu get ready for a major disaster.
British Red Cross aid worker Inma Lopez de la Cova was in the city for the building’s official opening last week.
Today Inma said: “We can’t stop earthquakes from happening, and we can’t predict when they will happen. The only thing we can do is prepare.
“I’m so glad we got the blood bank open just in time – it really could save lives.”