Category Archives: Sichuan earthquake

Sichuan Earthquake Update

Latest reports say three people were killed and at least 35 injured in the 6.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked Sichuan and neighbouring Gansu late on Tuesday afternoon. More than 3,200 houses collapsed. Water and power supplies were cut off in Yaodu, and communications were also damaged, Xinhua reports. In Longan in Gansu, which was severely damaged by May’s quake, National Highway 212 was disrupted after a bridge on the road collapsed. ReliefWeb has a more detailed report. Earlier today, a 4.8 magnitude aftershock rattled the region. The epicenter of Tuesday’s quake was 290 kilometers northeast of the May 12 quake that killed nearly 70,000.

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New Earthquake Rocks Sichuan

Quake-stricken Sichuan shook again when a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck the province on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter was northwest of Guangyuan. The tremor toppled a bridge cutting off a highway, and cut roads to at least three villages, Xinhua said. Initial reports speak of one death and 23 injuries.

May’s 7.9 magnitude quake killed nearly 70,000 people and left 5 million homeless. A few hours before the latest quake, the Olympic torch was paraded through the provincial capital, Chengdu, on the last leg of its journey before it returns to Beijing for the Games’ opening ceremony. Portent?

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China Restricts Web Access For Journalists Covering Olympics

China, it turns out, cut a deal with the International Olympic Committee when negotiating for the Games due to start next month that would prevent the more than 20,000 foreign journalists covering the Games having access to what the authorities consider sensitive web sites.

This conflicts with promises subsequently given to foreign journalists by IOC officials that they would have uncensored internet access.

The usual suspects are proscribed.

These would include the site of New York-based Human Rights in China, which is saying that a local school employee who posted pictures on the net of schools that collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake in May has been detained for a year’s labor reeducation. The authorities can detain people for reeducation for up to four years without formal charges or trial, the Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal notes. Shoddy school construction, and its associated issues of corruption among local officials certainly falls into the sensitive category.

Meanwhile the FT raises the question whether the unprecedented security operation for the Games isn’t being overblown “as cover for a clampdown on a broad range of…groups”.

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Quake Stricken Sichuan On Flooding High Alert

Sichuan is on high alert as the advent of flood season puts reservoirs, dams and the quake lakes formed after the May 12 earthquake under renewed stress. Emergency evacuation plans have been put into action.

Local weather forecasters issued a flood warning last week, saying summer flooding was likely to be the worst in a decade and would come at the beginning of July, earlier than in past years because of the effect of abnormal rainfall in May that was 30%-70% more than a year earlier.

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The Post-Quake Struggle For Hearts And Minds

Li Yuanchao, who heads the Party’s Organization Department, says Party members should take a leading role in reconstruction after the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan, Xinhua reports. He emphasized the need to build Party branches at the local level.

Does that suggest that senior Party officials are concerned that NGOs have managed to occupy too much of the ground the Party would traditionally consider its own during the rescue and recovery phases of the quake relief effort? It would be a ‘hearts and minds’ battle that would have long-term ramifications if the Party were to lose it. Hence the reining-in of NGOs and the press in recent weeks.

The scale of that battle is indicated by a new quake situation map (.pdf) posted by ReliefWeb, a snapshot of which is below:

There is also a lengthy series of statistics showing the devastation the quake caused, both to individuals and property. The economic damage is put at an estimated $86 billion, but the human numbers are staggering:

2,000: No. of orphans
9,000: No. of children killed in collapsed schools
17,420: No. still missing
69,172: Official death toll
374,159: No. injured
5 million: No. homeless
10 million: No. living below poverty line
15 million: No. evacuated
46.2 millon: No. affected

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Sichuan To Build Earthquake Museums

What to do with three of the places worst hit by the May 12 earthquake? Turn them into world-class earthquake museums. That, at least, is a plan for Beichuan County, Tangjiashan and Hanwang Town in Mianzhu City, according to Zhang Gu, head of Sichuan’s tourism bureau.

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More Natural Disasters Strike Southern China

The areas of southern, central and western China stuck by severe winter storms earlier in the year are now suffering from rainy season flooding.

At least 62 people are dead or missing and 1.3 million have been forced to flee from their homes, Xinhua says. The affected province include Sichuan still reeling from the devastating earthquake of May 12.

Throughout the affected regions flooding has submerged large areas of farmland as well as destroying thousands of homes. Many roads have been washed away or blocked by mudslides. Flooding in the Pearl river delta, home to so much manufacturing, is said to be the worst for 50 years.

The economic loss as already been put at 10 billion yuan ($1.45 billion), according to Xinhua, and this bound to push up food prices further.

The forecast calls for more torrential rain.

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Tangjiashan Flood Alert Lifted And Latest Satellite Images

The outflow from the Tangjiashan quake lake has slowed to 56 cu. meters a second and the water level has dropped nearly 30 meters from its peak, officials said Wednesday. They have also lifted the flood alert as fears of downstream flooding receded. At those outflow rates the lake is likely to fill up a bit again, though the sluicing operation will keep the level at around 20 meters below the peak.

NASA satellite images (pdf), snapshots below, show the Jiangjiang River downstream from the quake lake before and after the sluicing. The top image, taken on June 8th, shows the river slow-moving and hampered by landslides. The lower image, taken on June 10th, shows the river as a torrent, submerging land along its banks, and flooding over the landslide that was previously visible in the upper picture. Its color indicates that it carries considerable sediment, including sediment from the breached landslide upstream.

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Tangjiashan Quake Lake Drains

The Tiangjiashan quake lake is draining, and officials have declared a “decisive victory”. Like Wellington said after the Battle of Waterloo, it was a damned close run thing.

Without demeaning the 10-day effort put into cutting drainage channels in extremely trying  conditions, it was in the end the crude tactic of blasting holes in the rock and mud holding back the waters that released the torrent of water needed to get the quake lake’s levels subsiding.

The flow of water through the spillway peaked, as far as one can tell, at 80 cu. meters a second, while the inflow was at least 115 cu meters a second. After two massive blasts on Monday evening which broke through what Xinhua called the “bottleneck” in the spillway, the water outflow surged to  6,420 cubic meters per second before slowing to o a steady 3,888 cubic meters per second by early Tuesday afternoon, dropping the lake’s level by 20 meters and emptying half the water that was in it at its peak. The outflow, though, was still much faster than originally planned, and as TV shots of the river well down stream showed, a river bed that was nearly dry an hour and a half away form Tangjiashan, was in full flow.

This is an important propaganda victory for the authorities and the army, too. Attempts to drain the lake have been front and center of state media reports, displacing concerns about the shoddy construction of schools. For a while it looked as if the story might have a catastrophically bad ending in all regards. And the story isn’t fully over. There is still a lot of lake water being held back by no more than an unstable landslide, and rainy season ahead.

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New Satellite Images Of Tangjiashan Quake Lake As Waters, Worries Rise

New satellite pictures via NASA (.pdf), from which the snapshots below are taken, comparing the Tangjiashan lake on May 14 and June 3.

Officials had hoped that the water levels in the lake would peak on June 6, but despite the opening of the spillway, they continue to do so. By Monday the waters were reported to be 2 meters above the lip of the spillway. The outflow via spillway had reached 50 cu. meters a second after military engineers fired anti-tank missiles to smash boulders in the channel and blasted with dynamite to widen it, but the flow is half the planned 100 cu. meters a second flow and less than half the 115 cu. meters a second flowing into the lake from the river upstream further swollen by Sunday’s rains. With Xinhua reporting another strong aftershock on Monday raising concern about the stability of the landslide dam, the situation is becoming more not less acute.

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