Tag Archives: Sichuan earthquake

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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Aftershock Creates Fresh Threat To Tangjiashan Quake Lake

The level of the Tangjiashan quake lake appears to be continuing to rise despite the spillway being opened on Saturday to sluice it. Another strong aftershock on Sunday caused new landslides and fresh fears about the stability of the one that created the lake in the first place by damming the Tongkou River. Crews were working Sunday to deepen and widen the spillway to increase the flow of water from the lake, and work started on cutting a second channel on the other side of the dam. The situation remains critical.

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Sluicing Of Tangjiashan Quake Lake Starts

Sluicing of the Tangjiashan quake lake has started. Water levels reached the lip of the spillway cut earlier in the week on Saturday. Xinhua reports that work crews are trying to improve the flow so water can drain faster. The sluicing will stop the level of the lake rising further and hold the waters at a volume that engineers calculate won’t burst the dam created by landslides triggered by the May 12 earthquake.

Two key pieces of infrastructure lie downstream from the lake: the Fujiang river bridge on the Baoji-Chengdu Railway, an important part of the rail network in western China; and PetroChina’s Lanzhou-Chongqing pipeline which supplies 70% of Sichuan and Chongqing’s oil. If the pipe was ruptured, Sichuan has only three days of oil in store.

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Tiananmen Anniversary Passes Little Noticed

The 19th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre slipped by this week. This Bystander still has a surreal memory of the days immediately ahead of 6-4 of suited bankers attending an Asian Development Bank meeting lined up on the steps of the Great Hall of the People and gazing down on the students gathered in the square below.

Can that really have been 19 years ago? As Donald Straszheim says in Forbes, China has changed so much since. He also notes that 6-4 is an anniversary that matters more to foreigners interested in China than it is to most Chinese.

That said, it still triggers an annual crackdown on dissidents and activists associated with it. Richard Spence writes in his blog from Beijing for London’s Daily Telegraph about how time may be softening official attitudes towards the bereaved, activists and human rights groups, but ever so slowly.

Spence doesn’t make the connection, but that may provide a clue to how a more contemporary group of bereaved, activists and human rights groups, parents of school children in quake stricken Sichuan, will be treated.

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Beijing Reins In Quake Press Coverage

This Bystander has noted before the potential political fault line that quake-collapsed schools may be. Now the FT is reporting that the government has instructed domestic media to rein in coverage of the schools that collapsed during last month’s devastating earthquake.

A notice was sent to media outlets across the country late last week, following a spate of reports about the collapses that killed thousands of students. Their parents blame sub-standard construction and government negligence, if not corruption, especially in areas where schools were the only structures to fail catastrophically.

The press has bumped up against a limit of its new-found freedom. The question is whether it will knock it over, especially if the grieving and aggrieved parents don’t go away.

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