MAJOR EARTHQUAKES IN CHINA IN RECENT YEARS

EARTHQUAKES IN YUNNAN

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earthquake refugee from
Yushu Earthquake in Qinhai in 2010
More than 70 earthquakes measuring over five on the Richter scale have occurred near Tengchong, Yunnan Province in the Gaoligong Mountain Range. There are also 20 volcanos and numerous hot springs in the area.

In April 1985 an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale struck Yunnan province, killing 22. In November 1988 an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale devastated a remote area of Yunnan province, killing at least 730 and destroying about 400,000 homes.

In October 1995 an earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale struck Yunnan province, killing at least 50, injuring 6,000 and leaving 170,000 People homeless. In February, 1996 an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck Lijiang in the Yunnan province, killing at least 304, injuring 16,000 and destroying 330,000 homes. It was the worst earthquake in China in eight years. Lijiang has had 22 major earthquakes since 1474.

An earthquake in July 2003 in a mountainous part of Yunnan, measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale, killed 15 and injured 400 and left thousands homeless. An earthquake in October 2003 in Yunnan, measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale, killed three people and damaged around 14,000 homes. In August 2004, an earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale struck in the area around Ludian in northern Yunnan province, killing four, injuring 600 and leaving more than 125,000 homeless.

In January 2006, a magnitude 5 earthquake damaged 14,000 homes but only injured one person in impoverished Mjiang county in Yunnan Province. In July 2006, a moderate 5.1 magnitude earthquake struck Yunnan Province, killing 22 people and injuring 100 others and damaging 38,000 buildings in 13 townships in Yanjin county. In August 2006, an earthquake and aftershock in Yunnan Province killed at least two people and damaged thousands of houses in Yanjin and Daguan counties.

In June 2007, a strong earthquake measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale followed by 55 aftershocks killed three people, injured 290, destroyed or damaged 100,000 homes and damaged crops in the tea-making city of Pu’er in southwest Yunnan Province. One of the dead was a four-year-old girl crushed when the mud-wall house she lived in collapsed.

In December 2008, an earthquake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale struck an area around Ruili in Yunnan Province near the Myanmar border, injuring 19 people. Two other tremors measuring above four also hit the area.

In August 2008, an earthquake measuring 5.9 the Richter scale struck an area near the border of Myanmar, killing three, injuring about 100 and damaging hundreds of homes. Thousands slept outside their homes out of fear of aftershocks. A day earlier a destructive earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale struck the same area.

In July 2009, an earthquake measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale struck a mountainous area about 100 kilometers northeast of the tourist town of Dali in Yunnan Province, killing one person, injuring 328 and causing 18,000 homes to collapse and another 75,000 to be damaged. More than 400,000 people were forced to evacuate. One villager told AFP, : I was harvesting tobacco leaves...when the quake hit, I felt dizzy and saw villagers falling over, many houses collapsed. The person who died was a 50-year-old who died from blood loss after being buried under debris from her house.

In March 2011, a 5.4-magnitude earthquake in southwest China---near the Myanmar border in Yingilang County in Yunnan Province---killed at least 25 people, injured 207 and toppled over 1,000 houses and apartment buildings, according to officials and state media. Photos of the quake showed buildings that pancaked, crushing people in the lower floors, firefighters pulling victims from the wreckage, a supermarket and hotel with collapsed walls and a sidewalk lined with injured under blankets.

Earthquake in Sichuan After Sichuan Earthquake

In August 2010, an earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale struck Sichuan Province, killing at least 32 people, damaging 258,000 homes and leaving about 1.2 million people homeless. Xinhua reported it damaged highways, reservoirs, bridges and hundreds of schools, and forced the evacuation of more than 40,000 people in Sichuan and neighboring Yunnan Province. [Source: David Barboza, New York Times, August 31, 2008]

The earthquake was centered near the city of Panzhihua, in the southern part of Sichuan, far south of the May 12 earthquake, according to the state-run news media. It was followed by hundreds of aftershocks. The strongest measured 5.1 on the Richter scale.

The tremors were felt as far north as Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, and also in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan to the south. The government said that about 70,000 people in Panzhihua alone were affected by Saturday's earthquake. And in one part of Sichuan, about 660 school buildings were destroyed.

Sichuan Earthquake Articles

Earthquake in Yunnan-Sichuan in August 2013

In August 2013, a 5.9-magnitude earthquake killed at least four people in Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces in southwestern China. CNN reported: Officials reported 10 injuries as emergency teams began to respond, the Xinhua News Agency said. The state-owned news agency quoted Yunnan provincial officials as saying that 600 residential units collapsed. An additional 55,000 residential units were damaged, and 9,200 people had been forced to relocate, Xinhua reported. [Source: David Simpson, CNN, August 31, 2013 <*>]

“The quake -- with a depth of 10 kilometers -- hit in remote areas near the border of the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Roads were blocked in some villages by boulders rolling down mountains, and 17 people on three tourist buses were trapped by landslides, Xinhua said. Xinhua reported it reached a Benzilan resident who said people "rushed outdoors hastily" because of the strength of the quake, but houses there did not collapse. A few days earlier a 5.1-magnitude earthquake hit the same region. <*>

“The Civil Affairs Ministry in Yunnan province was sending tents and clothing, Xinhua said. The epicenter was near Benzilan Township, the USGS reported."We are heading to Benzilan," Liao Wencai, vice secretary of the Deqen County Committee of the Communist Party of China, told Xinhua. "The telecommunication there has been cut off, and many residents cannot be reached by mobile phone." <*>

Earthquakes in Yunnan and Guizhou in September 2012

In September 2012, at least 81 people were killed in a series of earthquakes that struck Yunnan and Guizhou Provinces in southwestern China. The BBC abd AP reported: “More than 800 people were injured after the quakes hit. The tremors struck mostly mountainous areas, causing landslides that blocked some roads. The earthquakes thousands of homes and sent boulders tumbling down slopes. They struck a region of small farms and mines near the border between Guizhou and Yunnan provinces, where some of China's poorest people live. The US Geological Survey registered the two strongest of the quakes at 5.6 magnitude. Most of the deaths were in Yunnan's Yiliang county, said officials. [Source: BBC, September 8, 2012; Associated Press, September 9, 2013]

The BBC reported: China's Xinhua news agency quoted officials in Yunnan as saying 6,650 houses had been destroyed in the province and 430,000 others damaged. More than 100,000 people have already been evacuated, said Xinhua, and the Red Cross has sent 650 tents and 3,000 quilts to the region.The authorities have deployed the army to assist rescue teams in the rough terrain. "Roads are blocked and rescuers have to climb the mountains to reach hard-hit villages," Li Fuchun, head of Yunnan's Luozehe town, was quoted as saying.

Mobile and regular phone service in the area was experiencing disruption, according to reports. Television footage from state-run broadcaster CCTV showed hundreds of local residents gathering on streets littered with bricks and rocks. Users of the Twitter-like wesbite Weibo reported people rushing out of shaking office buildings, and photos posted online also showed streets strewn with rubble.

According to Associated Press: The first magnitude-5.6 quake struck just before 11:30 a.m. Friday and was followed by an equally strong quake shortly after noon. Though of moderate strength, the quakes were shallow. Such quakes often cause more damage than deeper ones. As of noon two days later, there had been 279 aftershocks, said Zhang Junwei, spokesman of Yunnan's seismological bureau. Xinhua quoted Zhou Guangfu, deputy chief of the county's education bureau, as saying that three students were among those who died. He said more than 300 high schools and primary schools were damaged and the education bureau would inspect schools before allowing classes to continue.

Relief Efforts After Earthquakes in Yunnan and Guizhou in September 2012

Associated Press reported: “Survivors of multiple earthquakes in southwestern China waited for shelter and other supplies on Monday amid forecasts of heavy rains that are likely to hinder ongoing search efforts. About 60,000 residents from Jiaokui town in Yiliang county, about 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the epicenter of one of the earthquakes, had been evacuated to open spaces, an official surnamed Guo said by telephone from the township government office. Guo said only the older survivors had tents, and that food, water, cotton quilts, clothes and medicine were also needed. [Source: Associated Press, September 9, 2012]

The official Xinhua News Agency cited local authorities as saying mobile phone services in the quake-hit areas had been basically restored. Footage from China Central Television showed rescuers and sniffer dogs running past steep slopes because of the risk of fist-sized stones tumbling down. It also showed an ambulance stuck in stones and debris.

A resident of Luozehe town, close to where the quakes struck, said he and others were evacuated to a more central area of the county. "It's quite hot here. There isn't enough drinking water or tents," said Wu Xuehong, who described seeing dead livestock after farm buildings collapsed. More than 11,000 tents, 10,500 quilts, 6,000 coats and other supplies including bottled water and rice have been delivered to Yiliang and more are on the way, Xinhua said, citing the rescue headquarters. State media reported Saturday that the army and police had mobilized more than 3,200 personnel to help rescue efforts, along with 4,000 militiamen and reserve forces. That means 11,000 rescuers are attempting to clear roads, evacuate people and search for the missing.

The BBC reported: Aid agencies said they were concerned about the plight of children in the two provinces following the quakes. "We are especially worried about those who may have been separated from their parents, as more aftershocks are expected to hit the area," Save the Children in China Country Director Pia MacRae said. The largest of the quakes was also felt in the neighbouring province of Sichuan.

Earthquake in Yunnan-Sichuan in June 2012

In June 2012, Associated Press reported: “A moderate earthquake toppled houses in a mountainous part of southwestern China, killing four people and injuring at least 100, state media said. The magnitude-5.7 quake was centered near the border of Yunnan and Sichuan provinces where many of the Yi ethnic minority live, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday. It said the casualties occurred in Yunnan's Ninglang county and Sichuan's Yanyuan county, where many houses collapsed. Rescue officials were sending tents, quilts and clothes to the affected area, it said. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 5.5. The area is about 2,340 kilometers (1,450 miles) southwest of Beijing. [Source: AFP, June 24, 2012]

A magnitude-5.8 quake in Yunnan in March 2011, killed 25 people and damaged thousands of homes.

Earthquakes in Xinjiang in the 1990s

In August 1985, an earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale killed 67 people and injured more than 100 in Xinjiang Autonomous Region. In 1995, a 6.9 earthquake killed at least 24 in northwestern Xinjiang. Five earthquakes measuring more than five on the Richter scale hit Artush in the Kashgar region between March 1996 and 1998.

A huge earthquake, measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale, hit the border region between Xinjiang and Qinghai but struck such a remote area no one was killed or injured. The quake occurred in Kunlun mountains at an altitude of 5,000 to 6,000 meters. The nearest population center, Golmud, was 350 kilometers away.

In 1997, 11 earthquakes struck Xinjiang. One measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale in January of that year struck the Jiashi area and killed 50 people and injured more than 40. One in April measuing 6.6 killed nine and injured 60. An earthquake in March 1996, measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck 120 kilometers north Jiashi and killed 26 people and injured 128.

Sichuan Earthquake in April 2013 Kills Over 200

A strong earthquake in April 2013 in Sichuan province killed at least 189 people, injured more than 11,000 and left nearly two dozen missing, mostly in the rural communities around Ya'an city, along the same seismic fault where a devastating quake that killed more than 90,000 people in 2008. Associated Press reported: The quake — measured by China's earthquake administration at magnitude 7.0 and by the U.S. Geological Survey at 6.6 — struck shortly after 8 a.m. Tens of thousands of people moved into tents or cars, unable to return home or too afraid to go back as aftershocks continued to jolt the region. Two days after the quake state Xinhua News Agency, quoting provincial emergency officials, said that 192 people were killed, 23 left missing and 11,470 wounded. [Source: AP, April 21, 22, 2013 **]

“Lushan, where the quake struck, lies where the fertile Sichuan plain meets foothills that eventually rise to the Tibetan plateau and sits atop the Longmenshan fault, where the 2008 quake struck. The Lushan and Baoxing counties hardest-hit had escaped the worst of the damage in the 2008 quake, and residents there said they benefited little from the rebuilding efforts, with no reinforcements or new evacuation procedures introduced in their remote communities. **

Jane Perlez and Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, “The earthquake, which struck at 8:02 a.m. local time in Ya’an city, occurred 53 miles from the devastating quake in 2008. In one hard-hit township, Longmen, one resident reported that 90 percent of the homes had been destroyed, suggesting the death toll could rise much higher. The Chengdu Evening Paper said 600 people had been injured, 135 of them seriously, in Lushan county, which is part of Ya’an city. Xinhua quoted a hospital official who said scores of injured people were sprawled in front of the county hospital Saturday afternoon. Firefighters in Lushan pulled 27 survivors from collapsed buildings, Xinhua said. The China Earthquake Networks Center said the quake occurred 6 miles beneath the earth’s surface. Scientists said the quake was relatively shallow and thus more destructive. [Source: Jane Perlez and Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, April 20, 2013 ~~]

“The quake was powerful enough to be felt hundreds of miles away in Yunnan, Gansu and Shaanxi Provinces. In Chongqing, 200 miles away from the epicenter, residents raced down the stairwells of apartment buildings and stood in the streets in their undergarments. As of midday the next day, the number of aftershocks exceeded 200, with 15 of them greater than a magnitude of 4.0. A reporter from the daily newspaper of Ya’an, the area that encompasses Lushan County where the quake epicenter lay, said on China’s Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like service, that residents in Lushan needed tents, blankets, bottled water, food and medicine. Ya’an, which sits on a basin on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, is about 75 miles, from Chengdu. The city, which includes Lushan county, has a population of 1.5 million. Scientists say the quake occurred along a seismically active fault line, known as Longmenshan, that runs between the Tibetan plateau and Sichuan Basin. Jiang Haikun, an official with the China Earthquake Administration, said 12 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.0 or greater have occurred along the Longmenshan fault line since 1900. ~~

“Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and several other senior Chinese officials from Beijing flew to Sichuan on Saturday afternoon, according to the state media. “The current most urgent issue is grasping the first 24 hours after the quake’s occurrence, the golden time for saving lives, to take scientific rescue measures and save peoples’ lives,” Xinhua quoted Mr. Li as saying. He took a helicopter to Lushan County, and he went to the county’s main hospital to visit the injured, according to Sichuan media. ~~

Survivors of the Sichuan Earthquake in April 2013

Associated Press reported from Lushan, Sitting near chunks of concrete, bricks and a ripped orange sofa, Luo Shiqiang told how his grandfather was just returning from feeding chickens when their house collapsed and crushed him to death in a powerful earthquake in southwestern China. "We lost everything in such a short time," the 20-year-old college student said. His cousin was injured in the collapse, but other family members were spared because they were working in the fields in hard-hit Longmen village in Lushan county. Luo said he wished more had been done to make his community's buildings quake-resistant. "Maybe the country's leaders really wanted to help us, but when it comes to the lower levels the officials don't carry it out," he said. [Source: AP, April 21, 2013 **]

"I was working in the field when I heard the explosions of the earthquake, and I turned around and saw my house simply flatten in front of me," said Fu Qiuyue, a 70-year-old rapeseed farmer in Longmen. Fu sat with her husband, Ren Dehua, in a makeshift shelter of logs and a plastic sheet on a patch of grass near where a helicopter had parked to reach their community of terraced grain and vegetable fields. She said the collapse of the house had crushed eight pigs to death. "It was the scariest sound I have ever heard," she said. **

Rescue Efforts After the Sichuan Earthquake in April 2013

Associated Press reported: “Relief teams flew in helicopters and dynamited through landslides Sunday to reach some of the most isolated communities, where rescuers in orange overalls led sniffer dogs through piles of brick, concrete and wood debris to search for survivors. Many residents complained that although emergency teams were quick to carry away bodies and search for survivors, they had so far done little to distribute aid. "No water, no shelter," read a hand-written sign held up by children beside a road in Longmen. [Source: AP, April 21, 2013 **]

Jane Perlez and Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, “Rescue efforts were hampered by landslides and officials expressed concern over two barrier lakes that had formed after landslides had blocked two waterways.Xinhua said one soldier was killed and seven injured after the truck they were riding in plunged into a river. Photos taken on the highway to Ya’an showed an enormous boulder blocking the way. “Now the houses on both sides of the street have become dangerous buildings,” Zhang Linpeng told the Sichuan news service. “I’ve seen people trapped in the ruins, and some people died. Many of the injured have been pulled out.” [Source: Jane Perlez and Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, April 20, 2013 ~~]

According to the state media, more than 7,400 soldiers and armed police and two helicopters had been dispatched to the quake zone. Authorities also sent another 1,400 provincial rescue workers, 180 doctors from a national emergency response team, 120 “professional rescue vehicles” and six search-and-rescue dogs. As a precaution, 80,000 inmates were evacuated from prisons in affected area. ~~

Relief Efforts After the Sichuan Earthquake in April 2013

Associated Press reported: “The Chinese Red Cross said it had deployed relief teams with food, water, medicine and rescue equipment to the disaster areas. As in most natural disasters, the government mobilized thousands of soldiers and others, sending excavators and other heavy machinery as well as tents, blankets and other emergency supplies. Two soldiers died after their vehicle slid off a road and rolled down a cliff, state media reported. [Source: AP, April 21, 2013 **]

“The seat of Lushan county has been turned into a large refugee camp, with tents set up on open spaces, and volunteers doling out noodles and boxed meals to survivors from stalls and the backs of vans. A large van with a convertible side served as a mobile bank with an ATM, military medical trucks provided X-rays for people with minor injuries, and military doctors administered basic first aid, applying iodine solution to cuts and examining bruises. **

“Patients with minor ailments were lying in tents in the yard of the hospital, which was wrecked by the quake, with the most severely injured patients sent to the provincial capital. With a limited water supply and buildings inaccessible, sanitation is a problem for the survivors. One of the patients receiving care in the hospital's yard was the son of odd-job laborer Zhou Lin, 22. The baby boy was born a day before the quake struck. Zhou said he was relieved that his newborn son and wife were safe and healthy but was worried about his 60-year-old father and other relatives who have been unreachable in Baoxing. "I can't get through on the phone, so I don't know what's going on there and they don't know if we are all right," he said. Every so often, an aftershock struck, shaking windows of buildings and sending murmurs through the crowds. “ **

Jane Perlez and Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, “That earthquake prompted a massive official relief effort, and a passionate outpouring of volunteer help. But some quake-stricken residents and observers faulted the government for dispatching rescue efforts to the wrong places, or failing to muster the equipment needed to lift victims from under slaps of concrete and brick. Instead, many troops and rescuers clambered over the rubble with sticks and spades.” [Source: Jane Perlez and Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, April 20, 2013 ~~]

This time, the government appears intent on avoiding any accusations of laggardness, even if the quake was less destructive than the one in 2008. In one notable gesture, CCTV, the state broadcaster, posted photographs online of Mr. Li and other senior leaders sitting on a plane bound for Sichuan. State media also said that Mr. Li and Chinese President Xi Jinping had convened an emergency meeting earlier in the day to coordinate rescue efforts. In contrast to the earthquake in 2008, when officials restricted independent reporting on the disaster, Ran Wang, a businessman, said he hoped officials would allow greater transparency. “No censorship, no cover ups or control so the right of the people and society to be informed during natural disasters are respected,” he wrote on his microblog account. ~~

Gillian Wong of Associated Press wrote: “High school seniors in the disaster area will be moved this week to the provincial capital, Chengdu, along with 30 teachers so that they can continue classes and take the all-important university entrance exam, Xinhua reported.As typically happens after disasters, Chinese with cars were packing them with supplies and heading to the disaster area. Anticipating traffic congestion that could hamper emergency teams, the government was asking volunteers, tourists and others not trained as rescuers to stay out of the disaster area.However, authorities were letting motorcyclists through.Peng Song, 28, an outdoor equipment retailer who biked to Lushan from the provincial capital of Chengdu, had his motorcycle packed with tents and bottled water and was riding with 14 other bikers-turned-volunteers out to remote communities. "Those in the disaster area need help. We just want to offer a hand to them, that's all," Peng said. [Source: Gillian Wong, AP, April 22, 2013 ***]

Portable ATMs and Phone-Charging After the Sichuan Earthquake in April 2013

Two days after the earthquake,Gillian Wong of Associated Press wrote: “The tent village that sprang up in two days to house quake survivors in mountain-flanked Lushan is no ordinary refugee camp. China's full range of disaster response is on display: trucks with X-ray equipment, phone-charging stations, bank tellers-on-wheels — even a tent for insurance claims. The efforts under way in mountainous Sichuan province showed that the government has continued to hone its disaster reaction — long considered a crucial leadership test in China — since a much more devastating earthquake in 2008, also in Sichuan, and another one in 2010 in the western region of Yushu. [Source: Gillian Wong, AP, April 22, 2013 ***]

"Lushan was so heavily hit and my family's house toppled. It has been such a disaster for us," said Yue Hejun, 28, as he waited to recharge his family's three mobile phones at a charging stall, volunteered by a communications company and coordinated by the government in a new addition to the arsenal of services after natural disasters. "If we can charge our phones, we are at least able to keep in touch with our family members outside and that helps to set our minds at ease." ***

“At a mini-clinic with two green cots in the open air and a small tent for doctors to sleep, a doctor said Monday the government has learned the importance of fast coordination since the Yushu quake, which killed more than 2,600 people. Much of the initial relief in that disaster came from Buddhist monks and other non-government volunteers, partly because of the remoteness of much of the affected areas. "After 24 hours or 48 hours in Yushu, things were not so orderly or settled in," said the doctor, who like many government officials would give only her surname, Luo. "The government's quick, organized response is very important. It's no use to blindly come here and try to save people." ***

“Helicopters have been an obvious presence in the latest rescue efforts, used to reach outlying communities, unlike in 2008 when bad weather hampered their use in the critical first 36 hours. This time, better use of helicopters for reconnaissance — with remote sensing technology — and for the distribution of aid has allowed help to get out more quickly to where it is needed, said Teng Wuxiao, director of the Institute of Urban Public Security at Fudan University in Shanghai.” ***

“Beyond the bare necessities, there are also stalls for survivors to make insurance claims, a large vehicle that converts into a bank and ATM-on-wheels, and tents sponsored by Chinese telecoms companies providing numerous electrical extension cords for residents to recharge their electrical gadgets. ***

“Still, complaints were common among the survivors of the latest quake, especially in the more hard-to-reach areas. While aid was being delivered, it was not getting out to all who need it. Yue said family members in his remote mountain village had received no help with shelter and were living under tarpaulins. Huang Mingxian, 47, who was camped out with seven family members in a government-issued blue tent in a small public square, said the government's efforts were appreciated but that supplies were not always distributed fairly. "This morning is the first time in three days that we have gotten instant noodles," Huang said, waving a pair of long chopsticks she was using to stir the noodles in a wok over a gas canister-powered mobile stove. "Other areas have electricity and water, what about us?" ***

Strong Earthquake Strikes Gangsu in July 2013

At least 94 people were killed when a strong earthquake, measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale, struck Gansu Province in northwest China. Christopher Bodeen of Associated Press wrote: “Rescuers with shovels and sniffer dogs combed through collapsed hillsides Tuesday as the death toll rose to 94 from a strong earthquake in a farming region of northwest China. Just one person was listed as missing and 1,001 as injured in the quake near the city of Dingxi in Gansu province. About 123,000 people were affected by the quake, with 31,600 moved to temporary shelters, the provincial earthquake administration said on its website. Almost 2,000 homes were completely destroyed, and about 22,500 damaged, the administration said. [Source: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press July 22, 23 2013 >><<]

“The quake toppled brick walls and telephone lines, shattered mud-and-tile-roofed houses and sent cascades of dirt and rock down hillsides that blocked roads and slowed rescue efforts by crews trying to reach remote areas. Hospitals set up aid stations in parking lots to accommodate large numbers of injured, while hundreds of paramilitary People's Armed Police fanned out to search for victims in the region of terraced farmland where the quake struck about 1,200 kilometers (760 miles) west of Beijing. "I saw the bulb hanging from the ceiling start swinging wildly around. I woke my two friends and we ran into the bathroom to hide," said arts student Li Jingui, 21, who was on the fourth floor of a school dormitory in Dingxi when the shaking started. "After the strongest tremors were over, we were worried that there would be aftershocks so we packed our stuff and ran out into a large clearing," Li said in a telephone interview. >><<

“Damage was worst in Min county in Dingxi's rural southern portion, where scores of homes were damaged and telephone and electricity services knocked out, Dingxi Mayor Tang Xiaoming told state broadcaster CCTV. All but three of the deaths, all the missing and most of the injured were in Min, a likely result of shoddy construction. Residents said the shaking lasted about one minute, but wasn't strong enough to cause major damage in urban areas, where buildings are more solidly built. >><<

“Tremors were felt in the provincial capital of Lanzhou 177 kilometers (110 miles) north, and as far away as Xi'an, 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the east. The government's earthquake monitoring center said the quake was magnitude-6.6, while the U.S. Geological Survey said it was 5.9. Measurements can often vary, especially if different monitoring equipment is used. The quake was shallow, which can be more destructive. The central government said it was about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) deep, while the Gansu provincial earthquake administration said it was just 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) deep. >><<

“The Chinese Red Cross said it was shipping 200 tents, 1,000 sets of household items, and 2,000 jackets to the area and sending teams from both Lanzhou and Beijing to help with relief work and assess further needs. Other supplies were being shipped in by the army and paramilitary police, which dispatched around 6,000 personnel and two helicopters to aid in rescue efforts. Heavy rain is expected in the area later in the week, raising the need for shelter and increasing the chance of further landslides. >><<

“Gansu province, a region of mountains, desert and pastureland with a population of 26 million, is one of China's more lightly populated provinces, although the New Jersey-sized area of Dingxi has a greater concentration of farms in rolling hills terraced for crops and fruit trees. Dingxi has a total population of about 2.7 million. >><<

Earthquakes in Xinjiang in the 2000s

In February 2003, a powerful earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale hit the area around the town of Jiashi near Kashgar and the Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan border. At least 268 people were killed and over 4,000 were injured and hundreds of homes were destroyed. Another earthquake in Xinjiang, near Kazakhstan, the same year, measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale, killed 10 people and destroyed 700 homes.

Chinese acted to quickly to bring help and relief to the region. Even so many of the Uighurs that lived in the region blamed the Han Chinese. One Uighar man told Reuters, “Han people kept using explosives to take oil from around here. This earthquake came because they took the oil”

In February 2004, there was an earthquake that measured 6.2 on the Richter scale in the Uighur region of Xinjiang. Many buildings were damaged in Wushi county.

In July 2007, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake destroyed about 4,600 homes and damaged 7,800 others in northwest Xinjiang . There were no human fatalities or serious injuries. Around 400 livestock animals died, mostly in 40 livestock sheds that collapsed.

Earthquake in Xinjiang in June 2012

In June 2012, Associated Press reported: “A strong earthquake jolted China's far-western frontier, shaking buildings and cutting off electricity in the remote mountainous area and injuring at least 17 people. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake, which hit China's Xinjiang region, at magnitude-6.3, while China's Earthquake Networks Center put it at 6.6. The Xinjiang regional government reported no deaths but said 17 people were injured. China's state-run Xinhua News Agency said most of the victims were tourists. [Source: AP, June 29, 2012 ////]

Residents near the epicenter were shaken out of bed in pre-dawn darkness and some households lost electricity, Xinhua reported. The quake toppled several buildings 300 kilometers (186 miles) to the west in the regional capital, Urumqi, Xinhua said, adding that rescuers had been dispatched to the sparsely populated area to search for casualties. An official from the Xinjiang Earthquake Bureau said the quake was "strongly felt" in Urumqi. The man, who gave only his surname, Jian, said Urumqi residents rushed into the streets when the quake hit but returned home after 6 a.m. ////

Other Earthquakes in China in the 1980s and 90s

In October 1989, a series of earthquakes in Shanxi and Hebei Provinces killed 126 people and left 60,000 homeless. In April 1990, an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale hit northwestern Qinghai Province, killing 126 people.

An earthquake in May 1996, measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale, struck Innger Mongolia, killed 15 people and injured more than 200. The quake was followed by more than 400 aftershocks.An earthquake in January 1998 in the northern province of Hebei, measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale, killed 47 people and injured more than 2,000. Many of the dead were in mud and brick homes in two counties.

Other Earthquakes in China in the Early 2000s

An earthquake in June 2002 struck the northeast province of Jilin, measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale, but caused relatively little damage and produced no casualties. The region has a history of deep source earthquakes that cause little damage.

In March 2003, there was an earthquake that measured 5.9 on the Richter scale in Inner Mongolia. Many homes were damaged but no one was hurt. Earthquakes in October 2003 in a desert area in Gansu, measuring 6.1 and 5.8 on the Richter scale, killed 9, injured 43, mainly in collapsed buildings, and left cracks in dams that raised worried about flooding.

Other Earthquakes in China in the Mid 2000s

In January 2004, three people were killed and six were missing after a tsunami suddenly emerged off the coast of Jiangsu Province and swept away two two tractors carrying peasants, who were on the shore collecting seaweed.

In 2005, there were 13 earthquakes measuring 5 or higher. In November 2005, an earthquake measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale struck Ruichnag city in central Jiangxi Province and parts of Hubei Province, killing at least 16 people, injuring 377, destroying 150,000 homes and forcing a half million people to sleep outside out of fear of aftershocks. A man who dashed out his house during the first wave of shaking told AP, “I felt very strong shocks, lasting about six or seven seconds. We fled immediately .” Among those injured were students caught in stampede during an evacuation. It was the most powerful earthquake to strike central China in 60 years.

In October 2006, an area near the Three Gorges Dam experienced a magnitude 4.7 earthquake. Some houses shifted on their foundations. A total of 4,318 houses in 39 villages were slightly damaged, More than 6,000 people were temporarily relocated. No injuries were reported.

In November 2006, a relatively small earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale struck Inner Mongolia, damaging 5,500 houses, including 1,353 that sustained serious damage. In January 2007, a 4.3 magnitude earthquake struck neat Lanzhou in Gansu Province, thousands of buildings were damaged but there were few injuries,

Earthquakes in China in 2008 and 2009

In August 2008, an earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale rocked southwestern Sichuan Province, killing 38 and injuring 650 and destroying 250,000 homes. It was centered 50 kilometers southeast of the city of Panzhihua, where 400 houses were destroyed, Another 1,000 were destroyed in the neighboring farming town of Liangshan. Relief works was hampered by heavy rains and difficult terrain. Some people were killed in an aftershock that measured 5.6 . The main earthquake was about 500 kilometers south of the devastating one that struck Sichuan three months earlier.

A survivor in Liangshan prefecture said, “All the houses in our villages have nearly collapsed, and right now we are risking our lives to bring our belongings out of our homes. In our village there are 60 to 70 people who are seriously injured and staying in the playground of our elementary school, We don’t have enough clothes or canvas to shelter ourselves, so we have o sew plastic bags together.”

In August 2008, an earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale struck an area of Tibet near the Nepal border, damaging hundreds of homes.

In July 2008, three earthquakes---with the strongest measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale’struck a region on the border Shaanxi and Sichuan Provinces, killing one and injuring at least 10.

In December 2008, an earthquake measuring 5.4 the Richter scale struck an area in Sichuan about 150 kilometers from the area devasted by the massive earthquake earlier in the year. Two miners were killed and three others were injured.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2014


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