Monday, May 12, 2008

Chinese Earthquakes

Early today, China was hit by a 7.9 earthquake. Right now, the death toll is over 10,000. I would not be surprised if the final death toll is in the 50,000 to 100,000 range. Unfortunately, this has happened many times before in China.

The 1976 Tangshan Earthquake took many lives not that many years ago. Wikipedia notes of the event, "The Tangshan earthquake (Chinese: 唐山大地震; pinyin: tángshān dà dìzhèn), also known as the Great Tangshan earthquake or GTE, was a natural disaster that occurred on July 28, 1976. It is believed to be the largest earthquake of the 20th century by death toll. The epicentre of the earthquake was near Tangshan in Hebei, People's Republic of China, an industrial city with approximately one million inhabitants. The initial number released by the Chinese government was 655,000, but has since stated the number to be around 240,000 to 255,000. A further 164,000 people were recorded as being severely injured. The earthquake came in between a series of political events involving the Communist Party of China. It shook China both literally and figuratively in 1976, which was later labeled a "Year of curse". The earthquake hit in the early morning, at 03:42:53.8 local time (1976 July 27 19:42:53.8 UTC), and lasted for around 10 seconds. Chinese Government's official sources state 7.8 on the Richter magnitude scale, though some sources listed it as high as 8.2. It was followed by a major 7.8 magnitude aftershock some 16 hours later, increasing the death toll."

The 1976 quake death toll was made worse by the fact that the Chinese government did not allow any relief efforts from western nations. I do not expect that this will happen this time. I think western relief agencies will be allowed access to the area and will save many lives.

There are some other bad earthquakes in Chinese history. These include:

1. The Shaanxi Earthquake, estimated as 8 on the Richter scale on January 23, 1556, with an estimated 830,000 deaths.

2. The Gansu Earthquake, estimated as a 8.6 on the Richter scale in 1920, with an estimated 200,000 deaths.

3. The Tsinghai Earthquake, estimated as a 7.9 on the Richter scale on May 22, 1927, with an estimated 200,000 deaths.

Undoubtedly, China has seen many other equally devastating quakes in the long history of that nation. I wish the Chinese people well in dealing with this one. I will be writing a check to the Red Cross to help. I hope many of the readers of this blog do as well.

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