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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid