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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs