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Transcript of Tangshan Earthquake
At 3.26am on 28 July 1976 the biggest earthquake of the 20th century destroyed the sleeping city of Tangshan, ruining the lives of everyone in it.
Tangshan was caused by a magnitude 7.8 intraplate slip-strike fault. "Intraplate" means that the earthquake did not occur on a plate boundary. A "slip-strike fault" is where a vertical fault causes a lateral shift. The earthquake occurred along a 25 mile fault line now known as the Tangshan fault. The Tangshan fault runs in a northeasternly direction and intersects the Yan Shan fold-fault zone and the Cangdong fault zone. These fault zones are part of a system known as the Tancheng-Lujiang fault system. This area is particularly prone to earthquakes due to a subducting Pacific plate on the easterly side of the continent and pressure from the India plate on the southern side.
The social impacts of the Tangshan earthquake were unprecedented. Never in recorded history had the victims of an earthquake been hit so hard. The earthquake lasted 14-16 seconds and during that time thousands of people were killed and buried under ruble. Revival efforts fell down to the citizens after the only remaining intact road was blocked by relief workers, slowing their passage. 80% of victims had been pulled out from under the ruble when the aftershock struck later that afternoon, registering a massive 7.1 magnitude. The scenes that followed were almost as horrific.
242,419 people lay dead or dying
164,581 people lay injured
2 600 children orphaned
In 7 218 households, everyone living there was dead
Over 500 000 people were left homeless
Survivors faced no electricity, food or water
Roads and transport were blocked
Communication systems were jammed
As time passed other problems began to arise:
Contaminated water and faulty sewer systems caused widespread disease
Thousand were still without permanent residence.
Health problems arose as a result of improper treatment of corpses.
The final death toll was registered as 242 000 but it is suspected that the actual figure may have been over 700 000.
Environmental Impacts - Man made and Natural
Flooding from following tsunami (kills 40 -50 000)
sewer leakages (14% of sewer pipes were damaged)
93% of residental buildings destroyed
78% of industrial buildings destroyed
roads, railways and bridges destroyed
4.5 billion dollar loss through destroyed crops and consequently lack of food and employment
Total loss was calculated at 10 billion yarn
The Chinese Central Command (equivalent to Australian Federal Government) allocated 2.5 billion RMB (equal to 9 billion US dollars) to Tangshan reconstruction. It also exempted Tangshan from all revenue contribution for four years.
Government Response to Disaster
Government aid was the main source of aid towards the earthquake recovery. This is because the Chinese government was communist and as a result no community groups exsisted outside of its control. The central council dictated that all areas send aid to Tangshan. Shanghai, Beijing, Shenyang and Hebei were particularly generous in their help, sending over 100 000 People Liberation Army workers (PLA) to help. In addition to this, Shanghai also sent 56 medical teams.
A relief centre was set up by the Committee of Hebei Province, the Beijing Military Area Command, the Shenyang Military Area Command and the United Work Group of the State Council . The centre handled all aspects of disaster recovery from food and water shortages to organising rescue forces. International aid was not an optional as the Chinese Government believed strongly in self-reliance and refused foreign help.
The Kailuan Coal Mine suffered heavy with thousands of miners killed instantly and thousands more stranded in the mines. In response, a mass rescue was orgnaised which successfully returned most of the 10 000 stranded workers to the surface.
In my opinion however, the most commendable aid effort was that of the No. 66 Army. The army suffered heavily from the earthquake with over 1 800 workers stuck in collapsed baracks. Quick to respond, a self-relief unit was organised to help victims. That same day Unit No. 66 went out into the community and dug up 5,572 people.
Individual Response to Disaster
As mentioned previously, rescue workers were severely delayed by damaged transport systems and blocked roads. As a result, many of the citizens took it upon themselves to help those around them. They dug through debris saving thousands of people who had been buried. As time passed and it became evident that rescue workers had been held up, the survivors became more organised, initiating groups to gather medical supplies and food as well as continuing the search through the ruble.
"Commemorations have been held in Tangshan in China to mark 30 years since a massive earthquake devastated the city.
Over 1,000 people attended a ceremony to remember those who died when the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck in the early morning of 28 July 1976."
BBC 30 year Commemoration (extract)
Published 28 July 2006
"Hundreds of thousands of people are feared dead following an 8.3 magnitude earthquake in China.
The quake has virtually destroyed the city of Tangshan, north-east of Beijing, and Western sources believe the death toll may be much higher than the official figure of 240,000. Some believe the figure is more like 750,000."
BBC -Event Recount (Extract)
"The 1976 quake, which measured at least 7.8 on the Richter scale and was followed by a 7.1-magnitude aftershock less than a day later, is one of the deadliest and most controversial earthquakes in modern history. According to official figures, it killed around 240,000 people, though some have accused the government of trying to downplay the tragedy and argued that the actual death toll may have been much higher."
Wall Street Journal: China
"The weather was very hot and close for a few days before the earthquake, and dogs and chickens refused to go inside buildings.
"There was no forecast, no sign that this was going to happen, but there was a noticeable change in people's behaviour.
"The evening before the quake, there was an outdoor film show, and it took more than four hours to run the entire movie. people were very restless, and the film had to be stopped many times due to fights breaking out amongst the audience.
"As I walked home, I passed a fish pond and noticed the fish jumping up out of the water, indicating that the ground temperature had risen very high.
"That night, I couldn't sleep, and I lay in bed, just dozing. suddenly I was woken by a bright flash in the sky and the room was brilliantly lit as if by lightning. there was a roaring sound like a very big wind except that the air was still, and intermittent sounds of explosions. Then a great shaking motion began, up and down.
"I was shocked awake by the light, shook my wife awake and spent a long time looking for my slippers. it is my custom to put my slippers on when i get out of bed.
"By the time i reached the door, the up-and-down rolling motion had begun, and the building was rocking so much, i couldn't get the door open. I went back and clung to the bed. Outside the window, the trees were swinging back and forwards crazily.
"When the rolling motion finished less than a minute later, I opened the door and ran into the courtyard and found that all the buildings around had collapsed."
Witness: Mr Yao Guangqing
"We are terrified of another earthquake. I can still imagine it now, the roaring sound as it rolled through, and the roof falling."
A foreigner passing by described the scene as being similar to the :
"worst pictures of bombing during world war two".
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