News / Asia

China Ponders 2008 Earthquake Lessons

A child sits at a makeshift tent in front of homes destroyed by Saturday's earthquake in Longmen village in Lushan county of southwest China's Sichuan province, April 21, 2013.
A child sits at a makeshift tent in front of homes destroyed by Saturday's earthquake in Longmen village in Lushan county of southwest China's Sichuan province, April 21, 2013.
VOA News
As relief efforts are underway in earthquake-stricken parts of southwest China, the public rushes to donate money and some ask what lessons the government learned from the Wenchuan quake that jolted nearby areas five years ago.

On Tuesday, three days after the magnitude 7 earthquake hit Ya'an city, firefighters were still digging at homes in Lushan and Baoxing county, two of the worst hit zones.

Military helicopters continued to drop aid packages to some of the more isolated areas, where roads leading into the villages are damaged and there is still a high risk of falling rocks and landslides.

In 2008, a few days after a magnitude 8 earthquake hit Wenchuan, about 190 kilometers southwest of the epicenter of Saturday's earthquake, Emily Chan, director of the Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response center at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, was on the scene helping out with the rescue response.

Chan said that compared to five years ago, authorities were faster to respond this time.

“If we look at the rescue part of this earthquake operation, I think it has been done in a very reasonable way,” Chan said. “The fact that the government managed to send teams that arrived on site two hours post earthquake, it shows and demonstrates an efficient immediate response.”

But Chan said the real challenge will start when the rescue phase ends, and the relief and reconstruction begins.

Infrastructure

“There are a number of sites where there are a lot of casualties, and a lot of needs, which start to become more apparent after the rescue phase is completed and people start to need the medical support and post-disaster services,” she said.

Chan said China upgraded some of its earthquake building standards after the Wenchuan earthquake left almost 90,000 people dead and highlighted the problem of insecure buildings, particularly schools and hospitals.

But in an article in the China Youth Daily on Tuesday titled “On anti seismic constructions, we have to learn from Japan,” commentator Guo Wenjing noted that in some counties of Ya'an most buildings were damaged by the earthquake, including homes rebuilt after the Wenchuan earthquake.

“In Japan, for a standard eight-to-nine-story building, there are easily two to three hundred pages only devoted to anti seismic inspections,” the article said, “but for Chinese skyscrapers the entire building permits and documents might not even reach two to three hundred pages.”

Rescue efforts in Ya'an have been particularly hard because the affected area includes rural villages surrounded by hills, with often only one mountainous road to connect them with more developed urban centers.

Technicalities

Tian Feng, a civil society coordinator based in Chengdu, has been following the government and civil society response. He said even though the government has been faster in providing relief and more transparent in giving out information to the public, compared to 2008, some technical issues remain.

Tian said that near Longmen mountain, where the quake hit, there are some roads that are wide enough for trucks carrying weight to pass, but some areas where that is not advised.

“In some parts there is only a narrow canyon, and that is where traffic jams occurred very early on [in the emergency response], there was no way to get information and rescue staff in,” Tian said.

He said similar problems had occurred in 2008, and sending more helicopters to isolated areas earlier might have helped.

In the early hours after the quake, hundreds of volunteers rushed to the region, in what Tian called a “warm, but perhaps too fast” response to the tragedy.

Authorities are now telling volunteers not to enter the area, and to help keep local transportation and relief work unobstructed.

“From 2008 Wenchuan earthquake we had already learned that in the first phase of rescue work, civil society organizations are not very effective,” Tian said. He adds that local NGOs will play a more important role later, when their expertise on local conditions will be crucial to help victims and rebuild the area.

Public response

People have been making donations to charity organizations working for earthquake relief, and called for more online transparency over the funds' allocation.

Many Chinese have preferred to give their money to smaller, private NGOs instead of larger state-run groups, like the Red Cross which in recent years had been tainted by some corruption scandals.

On Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, many posted survival tips and advice on how to help others in an earthquake.

Chinese University of Hong Kong's Chan said more government action is needed to help educate the public about quake survival and response.

Although the government has stressed the need to help oneself until other help arrives, many living in remote areas are the elderly and the young who, analysts said, are less equipped to face emergency and find shelter.

  • People stand outside a damaged house after a strong 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit, at Longmen village, Lushan county, Ya'an, Sichuan province, Apr. 20, 2013.
  • A clock is seen amidst the debris of a collapsed house after a strong 6.6 magnitude earthquake, at Longmen village, Lushan county, Ya'an, Sichuan province, Apr. 20, 2013.
  • A village woman reacts after her house was damaged by an earthquake in Lushan county, Ya'an, southwest China's Sichuan province, Apr. 20, 2013.
  • A man carries an injured woman to a temporary treatment station following an earthquake in Lushan county in Ya'an in southwest China's Sichuan province, Apr. 20, 2013.
  • People stand near a van on a road blocked by a large rock after a strong 6.6 magnitude earthquake, at Longmen village, Lushan county, Ya'an, Sichuan province, Apr. 20, 2013.
  • Men carry injured people to an ambulance at Longmen Village, Lushan county, Ya'an, Sichuan province, Apr. 20, 2013.
  • Collapsed houses are seen after an earthquake of 6.6 magnitude, on the side of a road leading from Ya'an city to Luzhou county, in Ya'an, Sichuan province, Apr. 20, 2013.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs