China Earthquakes: Learning from the past

China Earthquakes: Learning
from the past
Tangshan (1976) & Sichuan (2008)
Wikimedia Commons image by miniwiki and licensed for use under the Creative Commons License.
The Tangshan Earthquake, 1976
At 3.42am on the 28th July, 1976 a
massive earthquake of magnitude
7.8 on the Richter Scale hit the
town of Tangshan in north-eastern
China. There were also violent
The city was flattened and
240,000 people were killed. In the
decades after the quake
estimates of the death toll have
been 500,000 or more. It is
believed to be the largest death
toll from an earthquake in the 20th
Map adapted from Wikimedia Commons
Location of Tangshan, north-east
Why did so many people die?
The earthquake happened while
people slept, so most had no time to
Most of Tangshan's residents lived in
one-storey brick buildings with sturdy
concrete roofs which collapsed almost
instantly, trapping and crushing people
beneath. Most people died in this way.
Tangshan was thought to be a
relatively low risk area so very few
buildings had been built to withstand
an earthquake.
The city rested on alluvial soil making
the ground even more unstable during
the quake.
In the quake, rescue officers and men
of the People's Liberation Army (PLA)
did not have any large-size equipment
or tools. They rescued quake victims
from under the debris with their bare
Image by Flickr user entropy and licensed for use under Creative Commons License.
The Sichuan earthquake, 2008
An earthquake struck Sichuan
Province in western China at
2.28pm on the 12th May, 2008.
The earthquake measured 7.9 on
the Richter Scale with tremors felt
as far as Beijing.
The epicentre of the quake was in
the area of Wenchuan in Sichuan
The quake killed about 70,000
people and left 18,000 missing.
2 chemical plants collapsed and
communications near the
epicentre were cut off.
Troops and rescue teams worked
using machinery to dig out
Why did so many people die?
The quake happened in the
middle of the day when
schools, factories and offices
were full.
Official Chinese reports soon
after the quake said that
10,000 students died in the
collapse of 7,000 classrooms.
The quake happened in a
high risk area near to a major
fault line. Scientists believe
that the huge nearby manmade reservoir may have
triggered the quake.
Wikimedia Commons image by miniwiki and licensed for use under the Creative
Commons License.
After the Tangshan
earthquake in 1976, stricter
codes of building were
introduced. However, after
so many schools collapsed,
questions have been raised
about how strictly these
codes have been enforced.
The relief effort was held
back by torrential rain and the
scale of the disaster.