China 2008 Earthquake

June 17
More floods threaten south China
Dykes and embankments are being reinforced in southern China amid some of the worst storms in decades.
1.66 million people had been evacuated from the hardest-hit areas over the past 10 days. Up to 70,000 of those being evacuated are from Wenchuan county in Sichuan – the epicentre of May’s deadly quake.
Flooding from the recent heavy rain has destroyed tens of thousands of homes and submerged swathes of farmland, said the civil affairs ministry.
June 13
(CBC-TV) The Chinese government is showing the world its heroic relief effort. Those in the earthquake zone say the reality is corruption and cover-up (Video)
June 6
Earthquake Lake Threatens China’s Longest Oil Link
By Wang Ying
(Bloomberg) — China’s longest fuel pipeline is at risk of damage from an earthquake lake that’s threatening to burst its banks, said the parent of operator PetroChina Co.
The Lanzhou-Chengdu-Chongqing pipeline is 60 kilometers (37 miles) downstream from Tangjiashan lake, formed after the May 12 temblor that struck China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, China National Petroleum Corp. said in a statement on its Web site today. PetroChina’s Chairman Jiang Jiemin is at the site.
Rains Add to Flood Threat in Quake Area
June 5
Grieving quake parents want facts
Parents fear there will not be a proper investigation into why so many schools collapsed in last month’s earthquake in China.
Many complain that although local authorities have promised to investigate, they are slow to give out information and worried that contractors and officials responsible for shoddily-built classrooms will not be held accountable.
May 29
Quake danger was well-known, Chinese scientists say
(IHT) SHANGHAI: Chinese scientists say that even before a final accounting can be made in the earthquake this month in Sichuan Province, one thing is already painfully evident: The huge death toll in the disaster stems from a failure to heed clear warnings of a devastating earthquake in the area.
For decades, Chinese scientists say, they have known of the risk of a potentially catastrophic earthquake in the very area where the Wenchuan disaster struck, and when the dust settles from emergency relief operations still underway, they say, one powerful question will still loom: Why was so little done to prepare for such a disaster?
Chinese experts have emphasized that they are unable to predict the timing of an event like last month’s earthquake, but they say that the general danger to this region has been well understood since at least the 1970s.
May 28
Dam fears prompt mass evacuation
(The Independent) About 80,000 people in China were evacuated yesterday from areas downstream of an unstable earthquake-created dam that is threatening to collapse, as troops carved a trench to drain the water before it floods the valley.
The threat of flooding from dozens of lakes swelling behind walls of mud and rubble is adding a new worry for survivors.
May 25
Strong aftershock causes more misery in China
BEICHUAN, China (Reuters) – A strong aftershock jolted southwest China on Sunday killing at least one person and injuring 400 others, state media said, nearly a fortnight after a big earthquake killed tens of thousands in the same area.
More than 70,000 houses were toppled during Sunday’s tremor in Qingchuan, Sichuan province, state television reported. The 5.8 magnitude aftershock was epicentered 40 km (25 miles) west-northwest of Guangyuan, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
From The Times
May 24, 2008
Can the new, open China outlive the huge relief effort?
Two foreign search-and-rescue workers and their four sniffer dogs picked over the rubble left by China’s earthquake in search of bodies. They were working almost side by side with Chinese teams.
The Foreign Ministry appealed to the international community for tents. The Commerce Minister went out of his way to thank foreign companies for millions of dollars of donations. Speaking on national television he told Chinese that charges of foreign miserliness were false.
Tens of millions of Chinese sat gripped by moment-by-moment coverage of the unfolding disaster on state-run television. The stodgy evening news broadcast was replaced by 24-hour scenes of rescues, of paratroops jumping into inaccessible villages, of weeping relatives and of ragged shocked survivors. These scenes are unprecedented in China.
Earthquake and Hope
Nicholas Kristof
(NYT) In the aftermath of the great Sichuan earthquake, we’ve seen a hopeful glimpse of China’s future: a more open and self-confident nation, and maybe — just maybe — the birth of grass-roots politics here.
In traveling around China in the days after the quake, I was struck by how the public and the news media initially seized the initiative from the government. Ordinary Chinese are traveling to the quake zone to help move rubble, and tycoons, peasants and even children are reaching into their pockets to donate to the victims.
… The earthquake may be remembered as a milestone in that peaceful evolution. My hunch is that the Communist Party is lurching in the direction, over 10 or 20 years, of becoming a Social Democratic Party that dominates the country but that grudgingly allows opposition victories and a free press.
May 23
Landslides, Flooding Pose Threats as Experts Survey Quake’s Impact
Richard Stone
(Science Magazine) Landslides unleashed by the rupture on 12 May of a more than 200-kilometer section of the Longmenshan fault in Sichuan, China, followed by powerful aftershocks, dammed parts of nine rivers, creating 24 new lakes; experts are worried about another catastrophe.
May 22
China helps itself
The government’s relief effort is impressive; even more inspiring is what ordinary people are doing to fill the gaps

SOME 200 survivors of China’s deadliest earthquake in more than 30 years line up for a handout of food. It looks good. There is rice gruel, braised diced pork, courgettes and hot steamed buns. There are also no officials. The Communist Party likes to be seen as society’s main benefactor, but this is private aid.
The party has mobilised its own forces on a huge scale in response to the disaster on May 12th in the south-western province of Sichuan, which has left more than 74,000 dead or missing, 247,000 injured and 5m homeless. More than 100,000 troops and police have been deployed to help survivors and to rescue people trapped by rubble and landslides. Hopes of finding more are fast dwindling. But the scale of non-governmental involvement has been just as striking.
China’s grief turns to anger over poorly built schools
The problem is that many schools were built quickly during China’s meteoric economic rise, feeding an insatiable need for education as the rural poor try to educate their children out of poverty.
May 21
(RCI) A Canadian private team of rescuers says it will return to China to try to save earthquake victims despite having already been refused permission to enter the disaster zone in Sichuan. The Canadian Rescue Team returned home from Hong Kong on Monday after being refused visas. A team member says the Chinese have now promised to solve bureaucratic problems but that it won’t leave until the eight team members are issued visas. The Canadian Rescue Team pays its own operating and travel expenses.
May 20
We believe that the story below portrays the most significant long-term development for China’s civil society – a magical genie that will not easily be rebottled.
Many Hands, Not Held by China, Aid in Quake
From the moment the earthquake struck on May 12, the Chinese government dispatched soldiers, police officers and rescue workers in the type of mass mobilization expected of the ruling Communist Party. But an unexpected mobilization, prompted partly by unusually vigorous and dramatic coverage of the disaster in the state-run news media, has come from outside official channels. Thousands of Chinese have streamed into the quake region or donated record sums of money in a striking and unscripted public response.
Beijing is instinctively wary of public activism and has long maintained tight restrictions on private charities and religious, social and environmental groups that operate outside government control. The public outpouring is so overwhelming that analysts are debating whether it will create political aftershocks and place pressure on China’s authoritarian state to allow more space for civil society.
May 17
Chinese Flee Flood Threat From Quake
CHENGDU, China — Thousands of earthquake survivors fled tent camps and villages across the ravaged landscape of southwestern China on Saturday after the government warned that several lakes and rivers were getting dangerously close to overflowing because landslides have blocked water flow.
The new threats came as government officials said that more than three million homes had been destroyed by Monday’s earthquake, and more than 12 million had been damaged. The government again raised the death toll, to nearly 29,000.
The resulting humanitarian crisis is the largest in China in decades, and in the process of covering the developments, Chinese news organizations have been testing strict government censorship in new ways — and even winning some concessions.
With the scale of the disaster becoming ever more apparent, the United Nations announced that it would provide a grant of $7 million from an emergency response fund “to help meet the most urgent humanitarian requirements.”
Aid pours in, but time runs for China quake survivors
(IHT) Remarkably, relief officials said they had rescued a child buried alive in the ruins of a middle school about 80 hours after the quake struck.
May 16
CHINA: Quake Helps Mend Image After Tibet Crackdown
BEIJING, May 16 (IPS) – A sense of solemnity has enveloped most activities in the Chinese capital these days. Even the avant-garde shows in town strike a note of bereavement for the 50,000 people estimated to have perished in the deadly earthquake this week.
China has been shocked by the enormity of the disaster that hit with no warning. Hopes for the survival of some 25,000 people buried in the earthquake rubble faded Thursday when Beijing bowed to the inevitable and counted the missing in official death toll estimates. Officials said the death toll will be likely more than 50,000.
(BBC) Almost five million people have been left homeless by Monday’s devastating earthquake in China’s south-western Sichuan Province, officials say.
They said the extent of the problem only became clear when communications were restored.
So far, 22,069 deaths have been confirmed and thousands remain missing. It is feared up to 50,000 may be dead. More
As death toll rises, China welcomes foreign help
China has dropped its insistence that it carry out rescue and medical efforts on its own in the aftermath of Monday’s devastating earthquake, now welcoming foreign aid teams. Officials say the death toll is likely to rise to 50,000 as more victims are dug out from under collapsed buildings. The rescue and relief effort faced more problems Friday as aftershocks hit the region, causing landslides. The Times (London) (5/16) , Los Angeles Times (free registration) (5/16)
Beichuan: a vision of hell
Beichuan was a town of 160,000 nestling in one of the world’s most beautiful valleys. When rescuers arrived yesterday, they found a scene of unimaginable devastation and despair By Clifford Coonan in Beichuan
(The Independent) Reaching Beichuan is a long march into hell. When you finally emerge scrabbling through the dirt into the town, what lies before you is a breathtaking vision of horror. Official estimates say China’s worst natural disaster in 30 years has claimed 50,000 lives so far, but looking at the devastation here, it is hard not to imagine the final toll will be much, much higher.
Beichuan county in Sichuan province used to be home to 160,000 people, and most of them lived in the now-forsaken town of the same name, nestling in one of the world’s most beautiful valleys. But everyone is gone, either dead or having abandoned their flattened home.
Beichuan was too close to the epicentre of this week’s earthquake to stand a chance. At least 80 per cent of it is destroyed, with many thousands of bodies still buried in the rubble. It’s hard to imagine this place ever functioning as a town again.
Message from Conservation International
I have been in direct contact with Lu Zhi, our Country Director in China, and she has shared with me the unfortunate news that the Southwest China hotspot, especially the areas around the panda reserves where we work, is one of the hardest hit areas from the tragic earthquake on Monday. Fortunately, no casualties have been reported among our staff, their families or from our partners.
There have been more than 2000 aftershocks and close to 20,000 reported dead and much uncertainty on how high the toll will reach. Specifically, we have learned the following about the areas we and our partners are involved in:

  • The Pingwu, Wanglang, and Wolong Reserve staffs are all safe, including those that are conducting field monitoring.

  • All 86 pandas in the Wolong Reserve’s breeding centers are safe.

  • Many of the villages surrounding these reserves have suffered extensive damage and casualties are still being reported.

  • Communications, roads, and relief are starting to get through to rural areas, but the process has been slow.

  • All other reserves we checked so far have no staff casualties, however most, if not all of their infrastructure are heavily damaged.

The demand is most urgent for shelter, antibiotics, warm clothing, food and drinking water. More

May 15
Days of disaster
(The Economist) amid the huge destruction caused by the earthquake of May 12th, China’s leaders thus far have scored some unusual public-relations successes.
Hampered by poor weather (at least for the first day or two) and the blocking of mountain roads by landslides, Chinese troops have been struggling to rescue thousands of people buried in rubble and to bring aid to stricken communities across a wide area of the southwest on the edge of the Tibetan plateau. Three days after the disaster, officials put the number of dead at around 20,000, most of them in Sichuan Province north of the provincial capital, Chengdu. With many trapped, the toll could reach 50,000, the government said.
Earthquake dams pose floods risk
(BBC) Earthquake survivors in Sichuan province face a serious threat of flooding because of earthquake damage to dams, officials say.
There are cracks on the surface of the Zipingku dam on the Min river, near the epicentre of this week’s quake. Water Resources Minister Chen Lei said there was further evidence of damage to almost 400 dams in the region.
May 14
A Rescue in China, Uncensored
The rescue effort playing on Chinese television is remarkable for a country that has a history of concealing the scope of natural calamities.
May 13
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao rushed to comfort survivors and direct rescue efforts. Foreign aid agencies are welcomed and all news sources are reporting every detail, including the indispensable bloggers in the more inaccessible areas China has earned praise for “exemplary” response to disaster, in comparison to the “callous” response of the Burmese authorities.

One Comment on "China 2008 Earthquake"

  1. Diana Thébaud Nicholson May 20, 2008 at 6:09 pm ·

    Quake Tidbits From a friend in Beijing
    Sniffer dogs working 22 hours and pausing to eat one meal a day, are suffering from cut feet and mouths, so the government has sent in special sheathes for their feet.
    The mental stress is another thing. One dog started sobbing when searching through a building in Mainzhu. “The dog has been trained to find people alive. He has never seen so many dead and must be very grief-stricken” the dog’s keeper said.
    Three days before the quake there was a mass migration of toads from the area of the epicentre. Scientists insist it is not scientific evidence of an impending quake, despite a prediction five years ago based on patterns in tremor activity and publicizing clues about animal behaviour. Human chauvinism is alive and well..
    Today’s paper has a photo of a female soldier carrying a rescued Pomeranian across a suspension bridge.
    Three Pandas are missing from China ’s most important reserve for this endangered animal. The government has not yet established the safety of the 1,590 pandas living in the wild in Sichuan , Shaanxi and Gansu .
    A three day moratorium on recreational activities has been declared. Today the best guess is 50,000 people dead, and 20 million animals, along the Longmen mountain earthquake belt. The strength of the quake has been upgraded to an eight on the Richter scale. My local The Bookworm, has raised more than 120,000 RMB and cololected 10 tonnes of emergency supplies.
    Yesterday, six days after the quake, a man buried underground for 147 hours was removed alive; relatives lied to him that the quake had only happened two days ago. The spraying of disinfectant against smell and disease began at all sites that day however.
    Tragic tales fill the news, like 14 year old amputees… operated on while heavy equipment at the scene stopped out of respect for doctor and patient. A policeman who arrived at a collapsed school in Beichuan county where his 15 year old son was trapped with many others under the rubble, directed the rescue workers to begin with students easiest to reach. He saved 30 students; his son died waiting.
    Refineries and nuclear power plants in the region are deemed safe but tens of thousands of people are living in tent cities now. 700 to 800 trucks are dispatched with food and water every day from a central rescue coordination centre, to discourage the mobile from converging on one area. Trains moving the wounded have had their windows removed to facilitate efficient loading and unloading of stretchers.
    Rock bands in Beijing are organizing fund-raising concerts while schoolchildren fold hundreds of paper cranes in memory of the victims.
    Applications flood in from around the world to adopt quake orphans. China ’s insurance companies have offered to provide each orphan with 1000 yuan per month until the age of 18. Nothing to learn from FEMA then.
    After a three minute national silence this afternoon – the largest collective mourning in human history – tens of thousands of people spontaneously appeared at Tian’anmen Square to cheer the nation on.

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