About the recent earthquake in China

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About the recent earthquake in China

Postby Dmitri on Thu May 15, 2008 2:27 pm

Was "talking" in email to an old friend from Xian (and American who went to China a few years ago to teach English), and he basically wrote up a short essay about his first experience with earthquake, which I thought would be a waste not to post here.

Hope you enjoy.

Nature interrupted my day about 2:30 in the afternoon on Monday. The center of the initial quake was a few hundred miles to the southwest, but it rocked us pretty good here in Xi'an. My six-story office building shook and rumbled. I looked around at some co-workers and said that I thought that must have been an earthquake. After a few moments people started to get up and quickly move toward the exits. Hmmm, I thought, I guess that's a good idea :). I had the presence of mind to grab my eye glasses and my wallet and followed everyone toward the nearest stairway. I started feeling strange, light-headed and dizzy, like I was drunk. Then I realized that it was because the building was swaying gently, mostly side-to-side. Some people were beginning to get really scared and I also felt a tinge of fear surge through my body, as it was taking a while to get down the stairs. We all made it outside and moved away from the building, but the drunken feeling persisted. You could not see the earth moving but there was enough rotary horizontal motion that it took effort to remain standing. This lasted for a total of approximately 5 minutes.

Management didn't want us to return to the building, so after a couple of hours of standing around outside, I rode my motorcycle home. The apartment I live in is new and the earthquake obviously helped the building "settle". There was what appears to be some minor exterior damage to the facade and some cracks in the walls. I inspected the inside of my apartment and found a total of 4 cracks in the plaster of three of the walls. I have a 3-globed hanging lamp over my dining room table. The horizontal movement was sufficient to get the lamps swinging so much that they smashed into each other and broke, littering the table and floor with broken glass.

Everything seemed safe, so I just spent a normal evening at home (many Chinese people spent the night outside in the park). During the night I was awakened by the sensation of being shaken. I looked around and listened, but finally concluded that I must have been dreaming. Tuesday morning at work my colleagues informed me that it was an aftershock. So, it seems that we were lucky here in Xi'an, in that the city did not suffer any appreciable damage to the infrastructure (roads, gas, water, or electricity). Mild aftershocks have continued (causing us to evacuate the office building again on Tuesday) but it appears that I have survived my first earthquake. Yesterday I heard, however, that the death toll in Xi'an was 82 people. Most likely they were killed when unreinforced brick buildings collapsed. Most Chinese people are still sleeping outside in the parks at night. Fortunately, the weather here is dry and mild, unlike Chengdu which is getting rain.

I have been tracking the aftershocks on some web pages. The most disturbing thing for us here in Xi'an was that with each aftershock the epicenter seemed to be moving closer to Xi'an. Obviously, the fault line from Chengdu leads directly toward us :). We haven't felt any aftershocks lately so life is returning to normal now.
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Re: About the recent earthquake in China

Postby Darthwing Teorist on Thu May 15, 2008 2:42 pm

Good luck to the Chinese. It must be hell. I remember vaguely a big earthquake when I was 3 years old. One of my ex-colleagues, who is older than me, said that in the still standing ruins, she saw bodies cut in half. I don't even want to imagine what it must be for these people. :(
И ам тхе террор тхат флапс ин тхе нигхт! И ам тхе црамп тхат руинс ёур форм! И ам... ДАРКWИНГ ДУЦК!
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Re: About the recent earthquake in China

Postby Ian on Thu May 15, 2008 6:18 pm

http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_deta ... con_type=3

Death toll likely to exceed 50,000

Friday, May 16, 2008

More than 50,000 people have likely died in the devastating earthquake that hit the southwest, as time runs out to save survivors buried in the rubble of broken communities.
Experts said the search-and-rescue operation was entering its most crucial phase yet four days after the 7.9-magnitude quake struck, with the chances of finding survivors diminishing by the hour.

"The deaths are estimated to be over 50,000," state television said, citing figures from the national quake relief headquarters.

The epic scale of Monday's quake is becoming clearer as teams hike into the remote epicenter in Sichuan province, where whole towns were leveled.

"If there are some survivors under such conditions, it would be a matter of luck, or a miracle," said Zhang Zhoushu, vice director of the China Earthquake Disaster Prevention Center.

The government appealed to the Chinese public calling for donations of rescue equipment including hammers, shovels, demolition tools and rubber boats.

More than 130,000 soldiers and police joined the relief operation, Xinhua News Agency said.

"This is only a beginning of this battle, and a long way lies ahead of us," Vice Health Minister Gao Qiang told reporters in Beijing.

"We will never give up hope. For every thread of hope, our efforts will increase 100-fold. We will never give up."

No outbreaks of disease had struck refugees, who were being immunized against some illnesses, Gao said.

Workers were seeking to ensure safety of drinking
water and removing corpses to prevent the spread of bacteria.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies issued an emergency appeal for medical help, food, water and tents.

Gu Qinghui, the federation's disaster management director for East Asia who visited Beichuan county near the epicenter, said more than four million homes were shattered across the area.

"The whole county has been destroyed. Basically there is no Beichuan county anymore," Gu said in Beijing.

Plans for the Defense Ministry to deploy 101 more helicopters underscores worries that the death toll will soar as time runs out. Nearly 26,000 people are believed to remain trapped.

Yet amidst the tragedy, miracles did occur. In Yingxiu, a town at the epicenter, rescue workers pulled an 11-year-old girl out of the rubble 68 hours after the quake demolished her school.

Rescuers were sifting through the debris when they heard a voice.

"It's wonderful, she's alive!" a delighted onlooker shouted as the girl was pulled out on a stretcher and given a small cup of water.

Sichuan officials upped the confirmed death toll there to more than 19,500.

As the military ramped up rescue efforts with more troops and aircraft, a new threat emerged from creaking dams and reservoirs. State-run television said authorities had found "dangerous situations" at more than 400 reservoirs - two of them major - across five provinces.

Premier Wen Jiabao ordered another 30,000 troops and 90 helicopters to the area to bolster operations, while the military began its first major air drops of tens of thousands of food packets, clothes and blankets. Sniffer dogs were also sent in to help look for survivors.

"We must use all our forces, and save lives at whatever cost. Life is the most precious thing," Wen said.



Re: About the recent earthquake in China

Postby kenneth delves on Thu May 15, 2008 8:19 pm

I heard a report from Chengdu on public radio-a couple had waited all day for news of their child who was staying with their grandparents, they eventually found them, the grandparents attempted to shield the child , to no avail, they all died. It was heartrending, I switched the radio off for the rest of the day, you hear statistics, 10,000 dead it doesnt mean anything, its when you hear individual cases it gets to you
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Re: About the recent earthquake in China

Postby Royal Dragon on Thu May 15, 2008 8:34 pm

I have been trying not to pay attention to the situation, it's too hard. I can just imagine it.It's like te entire town I live in suddenly becoming rubble.
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Re: About the recent earthquake in China

Postby Ian on Thu May 15, 2008 8:45 pm

Take a look at this slideshow, and pass it on.


And please do the right thing: lend a helping hand in whatever way you see fit.
Last edited by Ian on Thu May 15, 2008 8:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.


Re: About the recent earthquake in China

Postby kenneth delves on Fri May 16, 2008 5:11 pm

I see from an article in the NY Times that an area containing plutonium processing plants and nuclear weapon manufacturing is not far from the epicenter. I hope they build their factories better than their schools otherwise Chernobyl will be repeated with plutonium as the main ingrediant
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Re: About the recent earthquake in China

Postby Shadowdh on Sun May 18, 2008 1:04 pm

The latest info suggests that such plants are safe and there is no cause for concern... however there are still aftershocks even now... the buildings here in Wuhan were even shaking and swaying for a few minutes... as I am on the 7th floor I was a bit concerned but we are too far away from the centre to be affected as those closest were...
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Re: About the recent earthquake in China

Postby CaliG on Sun May 18, 2008 2:11 pm

I just heard on the BBC that the count is 32,000.

In one situation a thriving town has been completely covered by mud and everyone has disappeared.


Re: About the recent earthquake in China

Postby Dmitri on Wed May 21, 2008 6:00 am

More from my friend:

I thought you might appreciate an update on my situation. Monday night
around mid-night my phone started ringing. People were calling to warn
me that more possible earthquakes had been "predicted as possible" in
our area (for the next 72 hours). One caller told me that she had just
passed through downtown Xi'an where she had seen large crowds of people
exiting the city in all directions. Another person told me that she and
the students in her school were all sleeping outside on the football
field again, just as they had done last week. Another person told me
that the parks and open spaces near her apartment were overflowing with
people who intended on sleeping outside that night. All of my callers
were fearful and wanted to know what I was going to do.

I got out of bed and put a few essential items (flashlight, ID, money,
etc.) on a table near the door (so that I could easily grab what I
needed on my way out if the building started shaking). Then I went back
to sleep.

Under the circumstances, I suppose a little fear is a reasonable thing.
But it seems to me, that there is a "herd mentality" at work here that
in some ways is just as disturbing to me as the possibility of another
earthquake. For hours Monday night, phone calls and SMS messages were
spreading the news through the personal communities of friends,
co-workers, and families, overloading the capacity of the phone network.
Each person's anxiety was being amplified by each other person they
contacted, and fear spread like a contagion. If there had been any
tremors, even a small one, I have no doubt that panic would have been
the result.

Most people in my office were at work on Tuesday, but many hadn't gotten
much sleep. Some Chinese companies in the High Tech Zone have given
their employees two days off. Schools have also sent their students home
for a couple of days. On my way to lunch on Monday, I passed several
parks in the taxi and these areas were literally full of people of all
ages. Small camping tents had been erected on any space that offered a
little grass and shade. The sidewalks and roads around the parks had
become parking lots for thousands of cars. People weren't laughing and
playing (there is an official 3-day mourning period), but the atmosphere
was pleasant and relaxed. I think, in general, Chinese people feel more
comfortable when they are in big groups, and most seemed at peace to
simply sit together and wait.

Tuesday night was a repeat performance. I came home after dark and many
people in my apartment complex had also set up mats and cots to sleep
outside in the garden and playground areas. Normally the complex doesn't
allow cars inside the grounds, but last night many people were allowed
to park inside instead of in the underground parking garage (I assume,
so that they could make a quick "getaway" if something happened). Maybe
I would feel more nervous if I had small children or lived higher in my
23-story building (but I'm only on the 3rd floor). I don't quite know
how to express it, but sometimes I can feel an under-current of
superstition and "fear of death" running through this society. Normally,
it is only noticeable when people talk about making offerings to their
ancestors or when they talk about being fearful of ghosts. But at times
like this, it seems very near the surface. Seeing it manifest, even in
the pragmatic and scientific minds of the engineers I work with, is only
one small shake away.

Regards from Xi'an
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Re: About the recent earthquake in China

Postby Ian on Wed May 21, 2008 6:14 am

Maybe in Xi'an it's not a concern, but the Sichuan Seismological Bureau is predicting aftershocks of 6 to 7 on the Richter scale in the near future.
Last edited by Ian on Wed May 21, 2008 6:16 am, edited 2 times in total.


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