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Chinese Earthquake — Why Now?
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Chinese Earthquake

The BBC reports that Thousands dead in Chinese quake

A powerful earthquake has killed at least 8,500 people in China’s south-western Sichuan province, up to 5,000 of them in just one county.

Many more are feared killed and injured in other parts of the country after the quake, which had a magnitude of 7.8, struck at 1428 local time (0628 GMT).

At least 50 bodies have been recovered from the rubble of a school where an estimated 900 students were buried.

President Hu Jintao has urged “all-out” efforts to rescue victims.

The epicentre of the earthquake was about 92km (57 miles) from Chengdu, Sichuan’s provincial capital.

Because the earthquake struck in the middle of the day, it is feared that many schoolchildren may be among the victims.

The USGS Earthquake Center has recorded almost twenty aftershocks ranging between 6.0 and 4.9 in the 9 hours after the initial event, so relief efforts are hampered by the continued shaking.


1 Kryten42 { 05.12.08 at 11:18 am }

Yeah, I was just reading news about it. Another tragedy.

Up to 5,000 dead in ‘major disaster’ for China

You know… If I was Gaian (or a Druid) I’d think that after all the *natural disaster’s* recently around the globe, including the tornado’s in the USA, Mother nature has had enough. Payback will be a real bitch if so.

But, I’m neither. So I’ll just blame human stupidity. Can’t go wrong there. *sigh* I saw a news item on the weekend about some town in Texas disappearing down a sinkhole created by decades of sucking the oil out of the ground.

I know Rudd will be keen to help China. Going to be a tough job. Sadly.

2 Bryan { 05.12.08 at 11:40 am }

Well, Burma won’t accept aid, so Rudd may as well help China.

Actually the sinkhole is related to the salt domes that the oil is pumped out of. They usually pump waste water in to replace the oil that was extracted, forgetting that salt doesn’t dissolved in crude oil, but it does in water. Not a problem, because the people who live there are probably poor and don’t make political contributions anyway. That’s how things go in too much of the US.

It’s hard to tell if we are experiencing more problems, or the 24-hour news cycle is causing more problems to be reported. It is obvious that the weather is changing, but you can’t get people to take responsibility for their part in the change.

3 Badtux { 05.12.08 at 2:52 pm }

Weather doesn’t cause earthquakes, folks!

A 7.0 earthquake is about 50% more powerful than the Northridge Earthquake, which caused 72 deaths. But unlike California, buildings in China apparently are not reinforced to withstand earthquakes. Schools in California have especially stringent requirements and not a single school was damaged in the Northridge earthquake. But in China, apparently the notion is that there’s already too many Chinese, so a few dead by earthquake is… (shrug).

4 Bryan { 05.12.08 at 3:14 pm }

Oh, there are plenty of codes “for the health and safety of the people” in all communist countries, but as one of my Russian instructors, who had been a civil engineer in the Soviet Union, explained, it was more important to “fulfill the plan”. No enough rebar? Not enough cement? Too Cold? Add more sand and pour anyway, because no one will notice for a few years. They added corrugated iron awnings along the fronts of some buildings to shield people when the chunks of “concrete” flaked off.

It used to be incompetence, but they discovered capitalism, so now it’s greed. They have the codes, but a little bribery takes care of that “problem”. Rebar and Portland cement are too expensive to waste on peasants.

5 Badtux { 05.12.08 at 4:17 pm }

Oh, that happens here in California too. There were buildings damaged in Northridge that supposedly were safe all the way to an 8.0 earthquake, but it turned out they weren’t built to code. On the other hand, we tend to send the builders of such buildings to jail when that happens, which reduces the instances of it happening by a whole lot. Since Communist countries (and former Communist countries) aren’t so big on that “rule of law” thing, it doesn’t happen so much there…

– Badtux the Law Penguin

6 Bryan { 05.12.08 at 5:30 pm }

In communist countries, depending on who you own and how many people die, either nothing happens or you are executed after a show trail in which you explain your counter-revolutionary activities.

7 Badtux { 05.12.08 at 11:06 pm }

Talked to my guys in Shanghai. The building swayed and they got sick to their stomach, but by the time they ran down to the first floor, it had stopped. And Shanghai is what, 900 miles from the earthquake? Somehow I doubt this was a mere 7.0 ‘quake…

Ah. News is saying that it’s a 7.8 earthquake. That’s ten times more powerful than the 6.8 Northridge earthquake, and close to the limits of what the most stringent California earthquake codes will protect you from (the ones for schools and hospitals). If a 7.8 hits here in California you will see probably around 60% of homes destroyed in the area around the epicenter, about 20% of the commercial buildings, and significant damage to the infrastructure (the most important being the Hetch Hetchy aquaduct, without which San Francisco has no water). If it hit during commute time, the BART tube would become a bloodbath even if it held due to trains derailing and colliding, and hundreds would die when bridges and freeways collapsed underneath them. The famous San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 was a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, and while most of the destruction was caused by fire, virtually all of the masonry buildings of the area sustained significant damage, including the complete collapse of the state mental hospital at Andrew (I can walk out my front door and see the mass grave where they buried the hundreds of patients who died in that collapse). In other words, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake is some serious shit, and I will be surprised if *only* 9,000 people died in the Chengdu area…

– Badtux the Shaking Penguin

8 Bryan { 05.12.08 at 11:42 pm }

They have upgraded it to a 7.9 and they are averaging an aftershock every 30 minutes along the fault line. The aftershocks are in the 4.4 to 6.0 range, so anything that was damaged will probably fall. They are occurring pretty consistently at a depth of 10 kilometers.

The last report I saw said that they still haven’t reached the center of the quake area with any significant help because of infrastructure damage.

I did a 6.6 in San Diego and wouldn’t appreciate doing another. It was a “roller”, not a sudden sharp event. It emptied the swimming pool in the complex through the movement.

There were small quakes in Fairbanks, and slightly more robust ones on Shemya [in the Aleutians] all the time, but you could ignore them after a while.

The logarithmic scale of earthquakes hides the threat difference between a 7.8 and 7.9.

9 James { 05.20.08 at 10:49 pm }

It’s 8.0!