2008 Sichuan earthquake

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Natural Disasters

2008 Sichuan earthquake
Date 12 May 2008
Magnitude 8.0 Ms / 7.9  Mw
Depth: 19 kilometres (12 mi)
Epicenter location: ( Yingxiu, Wenchuan, Ngawa in Sichuan Province)
regions affected
Max. Intensity: X - Disastrous
Aftershocks: 138 to 262 major

over 29,153 total

Casualties: 69,197 dead ( 19th deadliest earthquake of all time)
374,176 injured
18,238 missing
(as of July 16, 2008 18:18 CST)
USGS provided a map of Asia on May 2008, which showed a total of 122 earthquakes occurring on the continent. The large red square near the center of the map depicts the Sichuan earthquake.
USGS provided a map of Asia on May 2008, which showed a total of 122 earthquakes occurring on the continent. The large red square near the centre of the map depicts the Sichuan earthquake.
A USGS map shows that dozens of aftershocks occurred in a small region following the quake.
A USGS map shows that dozens of aftershocks occurred in a small region following the quake.

The 2008 Sichuan earthquake ( simplified Chinese: 四川大地震; traditional Chinese: 四川大地震; pinyin: Sìchuān dà dìzhèn), or "Great Sichuan Earthquake", which measured at 8.0 Ms and 7.9  Mw and 7.9  Mw occurred at 14:28:01.42  CST (06:28:01.42  UTC) on 12 May 2008 in Sichuan province of China. It was also known as the Wenchuan earthquake ( simplified Chinese: 汶川大地震; traditional Chinese: 汶川大地震; pinyin: Wènchuān dà dìzhèn), after the earthquake's epicenter in Wenchuan County, Sichuan province. The epicenter was 80 kilometres (50 mi) west-northwest of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, with a depth of 19 kilometres (12 mi). The earthquake was felt as far away as Beijing (1,500 kilometres (932 mi) away) and Shanghai (1,700 kilometres (1,056 mi) away), where office buildings swayed with the tremor. The earthquake was also felt in nearby countries.

Official figures (as of July 21, 2008 12:00  CST) state that 69,197 are confirmed dead, including 68,636 in Sichuan province, and 374,176 injured, with 18,222 listed as missing. The earthquake left about 4.8 million people homeless, though the number could be as high as 11 million. It is the deadliest and strongest earthquake to hit China since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, which killed at least 240,000 people. Approximately 15 million people lived in the affected area.

Strong aftershocks, some exceeding magnitude 6, continue to hit the area even months after the main quake, causing new casualty and damage.

Earthquake details

The earthquake had a magnitude of 8.0 Ms and 7.9  Mw. The epicenter was in Wenchuan County, Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, 80 km west/northwest of the provincial capital city of Chengdu, with its main tremor occurring at 14:28:01.42 CST (06:28:01.42 UTC), on Monday 12 May 2008.

According to a study by the China Earthquake Administration (CEA), this earthquake occurred along the Longmenshan fault, a thrust formation along the border of Indo-Australian Plate and Eurasian Plate. Seismic activities concentrated on its mid-fracture (known as Yingxiu-Beichuan fracture). The rupture lasted close to 120 sec, with the majority of energy released in the first 80 sec. Starting from Wenchuan, the rupture propagated at an average speed of 3.1 kilometers per second 49° toward north east, rupturing a total of about 300 km. Maximum displacement amounted to 9 meters. The epicenter was deeper than 10 km.

In a United States Geological Survey (USGS) study, preliminary rupture models of the earthquake indicated displacement of up to 9 meters along a fault approximately 240 km long by 20 km deep. The earthquake generated deformations of the surface greater than 3 meters and increased the stress (and probability of occurrence of future events) at the northeastern and southwestern ends of the fault. On 20 May, USGS seismologist Tom Parsons warned that there is "high risk" of a major M>7 aftershock over the next weeks or months.

Japanese seismologist Yuji Yagi said that the earthquake occurred in two stages: "The 155-mile Longmenshan Fault tore in two sections, the first one ripping about seven yards, followed by a second one that sheared four yards." Yagi's data also showed that the earthquake lasted about two minutes and released 30 times the energy of the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 in Japan, which killed over 6,000 people. He pointed out that the shallowness of the epicenter and the density of population greatly increased the severity of the earthquake. Teruyuki Kato, a seismologist at the University of Tokyo, said that the seismic waves of the quake traveled a long distance without losing their power because of the firmness of the terrain in central China. According to reports from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, the earthquake tremors lasted for "about two or three minutes".

Between 64 and 104 major aftershocks, ranging in magnitude from 4.0 to 6.1, were recorded within 72 hours of the main quake. According to Chinese official counts, by 08:00 CST, September 11, there had been 29,153 total aftershocks, of which 224 ranged from 4.0 Ms to 4.9 Ms, 32 from 5.0 Ms to 5.9 Ms, and 8 from 6.0 Ms to 6.9 Ms; the strongest aftershock measured 6.4 Ms. The latest aftershock exceeding M6 occurred on 5 August, 2008.

(The Ms 6.1 earthquake on 30 August, 2008 in southern Sichuan province was not part of this series because it was caused by a different fault. See 2008 Panzhihua earthquake for details.)

Extent of tremors

Places ordered by distance from epicenter (or time of propagation) :

  •  China (Mainland): All regions except Xinjiang, Jilin and Heilongjiang were affected by the quake.
  •  Hong Kong: Tremors were felt approximately three minutes after the quake, continuing for about half a minute. This was also the most distant earthquake known ever to be felt in Hong Kong.
  •  Macau: Tremors were felt approximately three minutes after the quake.
  •  Vietnam: Tremors were felt approximately five minutes after the earthquake in Northern parts of Vietnam.
  •  Thailand: In parts of Thailand tremors were felt six minutes after the quake. Office buildings in Bangkok swayed for the next several minutes.
  •  Taiwan: It took about eight minutes for the quake to reach Taiwan, where the tremors continued for one to two minutes; no damage or injuries were reported.
  •  Mongolia: Tremors were felt approximately eight minutes after the earthquake in parts of Mongolia.
  •  Bangladesh: Tremors were felt eight and a half minutes after the quake in all parts of Bangladesh.
  •  Nepal: Tremors were felt approximately eight and a half minutes after the quake.
  •  India: Tremors were felt approximately nine minutes after the earthquake in parts of India.
  •  Pakistan: In parts of Northern Pakistan tremors were felt ten minutes after the quake.
  •  Russia: Tremors were felt in Tuva, no casualties reported.


The extent of the earthquake and after shock-affected areas lies north-east, along the Longmen Shan fault.

According to CEA::

"The energy source of the Wenchuan earthquake and Longmenshan's southeast push came from the strike of the Indian Plate onto the Eurasian Plate and its northward push. The inter-plate relative motion caused large scale structural deformation inside the Asian continent, resulting in a thinning crust of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the uplift of its langscape and an eastward extrude. Near the Sichuan Basin, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau's east-northward movement meets with strong resistance from the South China Block, causing a high degree of stress accumulation in the Longmenshan thrust formation. This finally caused a sudden dislocation in the Yingxiu-Beichuan fracture, leading to the violent earthquake of Ms 8.0."

According to the United States Geological Survey:

The earthquake occurred as the result of motion on a northeast striking reverse fault or thrust fault on the northwestern margin of the Sichuan Basin. The earthquake’s epicenter and focal-mechanism are consistent with it having occurred as the result of movement on the Longmenshan fault or a tectonically related fault. The earthquake reflects tectonic stresses resulting from the convergence of crustal material slowly moving from the high Tibetan Plateau, to the west, against strong crust underlying the Sichuan Basin and southeastern China.

On a continental scale, the seismicity of central and eastern Asia is a result of northward convergence of the Indian Plate against the Eurasian Plate with a velocity of about 50 mm/y. The convergence of the two plates is broadly accommodated by the uplift of the Asian highlands and by the motion of crustal material to the east away from the uplifted Tibetan Plateau. The northwestern margin of the Sichuan Basin has previously experienced destructive earthquakes. The magnitude 7.5 earthquake of 25 August 1933 killed more than 9,300 people.

According to the British Geological Survey:

The earthquake occurred 92 km northwest of the city of Chengdu in eastern Sichuan province and over 1500 km from Beijing, where it was also strongly felt. Earthquakes of this size have the potential to cause extensive damage and loss of life. The epicenter was in the mountains of the Eastern Margin of Qing-Tibet Plateau at the northwest margin of the Sichuan Basin. The earthquake occurred as a result of motion on a northeast striking thrust fault that runs along the margin of the basin. The seismicity of central and eastern Asia is caused by the northward movement of the India plate at a rate of 5 cm/year and its collision with Eurasia, resulting in the uplift of the Himalaya and Tibetan plateau and associated earthquake activity. This deformation also results in the extrusion of crustal material from the high Tibetan Plateau in the west towards the Sichuan Basin and southeastern China. China frequently suffers large and deadly earthquakes. In August 1933, the magnitude 7.5 Diexi earthquake, about 90 km northeast of today's earthquake, destroyed the town of Diexi and surrounding villages, and caused many landslides, some of which dammed the rivers.


Region Deaths
Sichuan Mianyang 21,963
Ngawa 20,258
Deyang 17,121
Guangyuan 4,822
Chengdu 4,276
Nanchong 30
Ya'an 28
Suining 27
Ziyang 20
Meishan 10
Bazhong 10
Garzê 9
Leshan 8
Neijiang 7
Dazhou 4
Liangshan 3
Zigong 2
Luzhou 1
Guang'an 1
Total 68,636
Gansu 365
Shaanxi 122
Chongqing 18
Henan 2
Guizhou 1
Hubei 1
Hunan 1
Yunnan 1
Total 69,180

According to Chinese state officials, the quake caused 69,181 known deaths including 68,636 in Sichuan province; 18,498 people are listed as missing, and 374,171 injured, but these figures may further increase as more reports come in. This estimate includes 158 earthquake relief workers who had been killed in landslides as they tried to repair roads.

One rescue team reported only 2,300 survivors from Yingxiu, out of a total population of about 9,000. 3,000 to 5,000 people were killed in Beichuan county, Sichuan province alone, 10,000 injured and 80% of the buildings were destroyed. Eight schools were toppled in Dujiangyan. A 56-year-old Taiwanese tourist was killed in Dujiangyan during a rescue attempt on the Lingyanshan Ropeway, where due to the earthquake 11 Taiwanese tourists had been trapped inside cable cars since 13 May. A 4-year-old Taiwanese boy named Chu Shao-wei ( simplified Chinese: 朱绍维; traditional Chinese: 朱紹維; pinyin: Zhū Shàowéi) was also killed in Mianzhu City when a house collapsed on him and another Taiwanese was reported missing.

Experts point out that the earthquake has hit an area that has been largely neglected and untouched by China's economic rise. Health care is poor in inland areas like Sichuan province, highlighting the widening gap between prosperous urban dwellers and struggling rural people. Vice Minister of Health Gao Qiang told reporters in Beijing on Thursday that the "public health care system in China is insufficient." The Vice Minister of Health also suggested that the government would pick up the costs of care to earthquake victims, many of whom have little or no insurance: "The government should be responsible for providing medical treatment to them," he said.

Property damage

The earthquake left at least 5 million people without housing, although the number could be as high as 11 million. Millions of livestock and a significant amount of agriculture were also destroyed, including 12.5 million animals, mainly birds. In the Sichuan province a million pigs died out of 60 million in Sichuan province. Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide reported official estimates of insurers' losses at US$1 billion from the earthquake; estimated total damages exceed US$20 billion. It values Chengdu, Sichuan Province’s capital city of 4.5 million people, at around US$115  billion, with only a small portion covered by insurance.

Rain was among the many problems that occurred during the aftermath of the earthquake. Here, a group of onlookers examine a collapsed building in the rain.
Rain was among the many problems that occurred during the aftermath of the earthquake. Here, a group of onlookers examine a collapsed building in the rain.

Reginald DesRoches, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Georgia Tech, pointed out that the massive damage of properties and houses in the earthquake area was because China did not create an adequate seismic design code until after the devastating Tangshan earthquake in 1976. DesRoches said: "If the buildings were older and built prior to that 1976 earthquake, chances are they weren't built for adequate earthquake forces."

In the days following the disaster, an international reconnaissance team of engineers was dispatched to the region to make a detailed preliminary survey of damaged buildings. Their findings show a variety of reasons why many constructions failed to withstand the earthquake.

News reports indicate that the poorer, rural villages were hardest hit. Swaminathan Krishnan, assistant professor of civil engineering and geophysics at the California Institute of Technology said: "the earthquake occurred in the rural part of China. Presumably, many of the buildings were just built; they were not designed, so to speak." Swaminathan Krishnan further added: "There are very strong building codes in China, which take care of earthquake issues and seismic design issues. But many of these buildings presumably were quite old and probably were not built with any regulations overseeing them."

Even with the five largest cities in Sichuan suffering only minor damage from the quake, some estimates of the economic loss run higher than US$75 billion dollars, making the earthquake one of the costliest natural disasters in Chinese history.

New Casualties Months After

Strong aftershocks continue to strike even months after the main quake. On 25 May, an aftershock of 6.0  Mw (6.4 Ms according to CEA) hit northeast of the original earthquake's epicenter, in Qingchuan County, causing eight deaths, 1000 injuries, and destroying thousands of buildings. On 27 May, two aftershocks, one 5.2  Mw in Qingchuan County and one 5.7  Mw in Ningqiang County in neighboring Shaanxi Province, led to the collapse of more than 420,000 homes and injured 63 people. The same area suffered two more aftershocks of 5.6 and 6.0 Ms (5.8 and 5.5 Mw, respectively, according to USGS) on 23 July, resulting in 1 death, 6 serious injuries, collapse of hundreds of homes and damaging kilometers of highways. Pingwu County and Beichuan County, Sichuan, also northeast of Wenchuan and close to the epicenter of a 7.2 Ms earthquake in 1976, suffered a 6.1 Ms aftershock (5.7 Mw according to USGS) on 1 August; it caused 2 deaths, 345 injuries, collapse of 707 homes, damages to over 1,000 homes, and blocked 25 kilometres (16 mi) of country roads. As late as August 5, yet another aftershock of 6.1 Ms (6.2 Mw according to USGS) hit Qingchuan, Sichuan, causing 1 death, 32 injuries, telecommunication interruptions, and widespread hill slides blocking roads in the area including a national highway.

Rescue efforts

Persistent rain, as well as rock slides and a layer of mud coating on the main roads, such as the one above, hinders rescue official's efforts to enter the target region.
Persistent rain, as well as rock slides and a layer of mud coating on the main roads, such as the one above, hinders rescue official's efforts to enter the target region.

President Hu Jintao announced that the disaster response would be rapid. Just 90 minutes after the earthquake, Premier Wen Jiabao, who has an academic background in geomechanics, flew to the earthquake area to oversee the rescue work. Soon afterward, China's Health Ministry said that it had sent ten emergency medical teams to Wenchuan County in southwest China's Sichuan Province. On the same day, China's Chengdu Military Area Command dispatched 50,000 troops and armed police to help with disaster relief work in Wenchuan County. However, due to the rough terrain and close proximity of the quake's epicenter, the soldiers found it very difficult to get help to the rural regions of the province.

The National Disaster Relief Commission initiated a "Level II emergency contingency plan", which covers the most serious class of natural disasters. The plan rose to Level I at 22:15 CST, 12 May.

An earthquake emergency relief team of 184 people (consisting of 12 people from the State Seismological Bureau, 150 from the Beijing Military Area Command, and 22 from the Armed Police General Hospital) left Beijing from Nanyuan Airport late 12 May in two military transport planes to travel to Wenchuan County.

Many rescue teams, including that of the Taipei Fire Department from Taiwan, were reported ready to join the rescue effort in Sichuan as early as Wednesday. However, the Red Cross Society of China said that (on 13 May) "it was inconvenient currently due to the traffic problem to the hardest hit areas closest to the epicenter." The Red Cross Society of China also stated that the disaster areas need tents, medical supplies, drinking water and food; however it has recommended donating cash instead of other items, as it has not been possible to reach roads that were completely damaged or places that were blocked off by landslides. Landslides continuously threatened the progress of a search and rescue group of 80 men, each carrying about 40 kg of relief supplies, from a motorized infantry brigade under commander Yang Wenyao, as they tried to reach the ethnically Tibetan village of Sier at a height of 4000 m above sea level in Pingwu county. The extreme terrain conditions precluded the use of helicopter evacuation, and over 300 of the Tibetan villagers were stranded in their demolished village for five days without food and water before the rescue group finally arrived to help the injured and stranded villagers down the mountain.

Falling debris, such as the object that landed on this vehicle, hinders rescue workers' progress as they attempt to cross the mountain.
Falling debris, such as the object that landed on this vehicle, hinders rescue workers' progress as they attempt to cross the mountain.

Persistent heavy rain and landslides in Wenchuan County and the nearby area badly affected rescue efforts. At the start of rescue operations on 12 May, 20 helicopters were deployed for the delivery of food, water, and emergency aid, and also the evacuation of the injured and reconnaissance of quake-stricken areas. By 17:37 CST on 13 May, a total of over 15,600 troops and militia reservists from the Chengdu Military Region have joined the rescue force in the heavily affected areas. A commander reported from Yingxiu town, Wenchuan, that around 3,000 survivors were found, while the status of the other inhabitants (around 9,000) remains unclear. The 1,300 rescuers reached the epicenter, and 300 pioneer troops reached the main town of Wenchuan at about 23:30 CST. By 12:17 CST, 14 May 2008, communication in the major town of Wenchuan is partly revived. On the afternoon of 14 May, 100 paratroopers, along with relief supplies, parachuted into inaccessible Maoxian County, northeast of Wenchuan.

This elderly woman was rescued and placed on a stretcher after being trapped for over 50 hours.
This elderly woman was rescued and placed on a stretcher after being trapped for over 50 hours.

By 15 May, China's Premier Wen Jiabao ordered the deployment of an additional 90 helicopters, of which 60 were to be provided by the PLAAF, and 30 provided by the civil aviation industry, bringing the total of number of aircraft deployed in relief operations by the air force, army, and civil aviation to over 150, resulting in China's largest ever non-combat airlifting operation.

The Chinese Government accepted the aid of the Tzu Chi Foundation from Taiwan late on 13 May. Tzu Chi was the first force from outside the People's Republic of China to join the rescue effort. China stated it would gratefully accept international help to cope with the quake.

A direct chartered cargo flight was made by China Airlines from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport sending a sum of 100 tons of relief supplies donated by the Tzu Chi Foundation and the Red Cross Society of Taiwan to the affected areas. Approval from the PRC Government was sought, and the chartered flight departed Taipei at 17:00 CST, 15 May and arriving in Chengdu by 20:30 CST. A rescue team from the ROC Red Cross is also scheduled to depart Taipei on a Mandarin Airlines direct chartered flight to Chengdu at 15:00 CST on 16 May.

Francis Marcus of the International Federation of the Red Cross praised China's rescue effort as "swift and very efficient" in Beijing on Tuesday. But he added the scale of the disaster was such that "we can't expect that the government can do everything and handle every aspect of the needs". The Economist noted that China reacted to the disaster "rapidly and with uncharacteristic openness", contrasting it with Burma's secretive response to Cyclone Nargis, which devastated that country 10 days before the earthquake.

On 16 May, rescue groups from South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Russia and Taiwan arrived to join the rescue effort. The United States shared some of its satellite images of the quake-stricken areas with Chinese authorities. During the weekend, the US sent into China two U.S. Air Force C-17's carrying supplies, which included tents and generators. Xinhua reported 135,000 Chinese troops and medics are involved in the rescue effort across 58 counties and cities.

The Internet has been extensively used for passing information to aid rescue and recovery in China. For example, the official Xinhua has set up an online rescue request centre in order to find the blind spots of disaster recovery. After knowing that rescue helicopters had trouble in landing into the epicenter in Wenchuan, a student proposed a landing spot online and it was chosen as the first touchdown place for the helicopters. Volunteers have also set up several websites to help store contact information for victims and evacuees. On 31 May, a rescue helicopter carrying earthquake survivors and crew members crashed in fog and turbulence in Wenchuan county. None survived.

Rescue efforts performed by the Chinese government were praised by the critical western media, especially in comparison with Myanmar's blockage of foreign aid during Cyclone Nargis, as well as China's previous performance during the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. China has previously been accused of multiple counts of human rights abuses in the Darfur region and the Tibet Autonomous region. However, its "openness" during the media covering of the Sichuan earthquake led a professor at the University of Beijing to say, “This is the first time [that] the Chinese media has lived up to international standards”. Los Angeles Times praised China's media coverage of the quake of being "democratic".

The "quake lakes"

As the result of the magnitude 8.0 earthquake and the many strong aftershocks, many rivers became blocked by large landslides, which resulted in the formation of "quake lakes"; these are massive amounts of water pooling up at a very high rate behind the landslide dams which will eventually crumble under the weight of the ever-increasing water mass, potentially endangering the lives of millions of people if the water is to build up, and then break downstream. As of 27 May 2008, 34 lakes had formed in nine earthquake-affected counties due to earthquake debris blocking and damming rivers, and it is estimated that 28 of them are still of potential danger to the local people. Entire villages had to be evacuated because of the resultant flooding. These so-called "quake lakes" also pose additional hazards as the natural dams forming them are breached, causing secondary flooding.

The most precarious of these quake-lakes is the one located in the extremely difficult terrain at Tangjiashan mountain, accessible only by foot or air, in which an Mi-26T heavy lift helicopter belonging to the China Flying Dragon Special Aviation Company is being used to bring heavy earthmoving tractors to the affected location. This in conjunction with PLAAF Mi-17 helicopters bringing in PLA engineering corps, explosive specialists, and other personnel to join 1,200 soldiers who've already arrived on site by foot. Five tons of fuel to operate the machinery was airlifted to the site, where a sluice has been constructed to allow the safe discharge of the bottlenecked water. More than 200,000 people have been evacuated from Mianyang as of 1 June in anticipation of the dam bursting.

Reactions within China

On 19 May 2008, people mourned for the earthquake victims at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, with the flag at half mast throughout the mourning period.
On 19 May 2008, people mourned for the earthquake victims at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, with the flag at half mast throughout the mourning period.

The State Council declared a three-day period of national mourning for the quake victims starting from 19 May 2008; the PRC's National Flag and Regional Flags of Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR were raised at half mast. It is the first time that a national mourning period had been declared for something other than the death of a state leader, and many call it the biggest display of mourning since the death of Mao. At 14:28 CST on 19 May 2008, a week after the earthquake, the Chinese public held a moment of silence. People stood silent for three minutes while air defense, police and fire sirens, and the horns of vehicles, vessels and trains sounded. Cars on Beijing's roads came to a halt. People spontaneously burst into cheering "China jiayou" and "Sichuan jiayou" afterwards.

The Ningbo Organizing Committee of Beijing Olympic torch relay announced that the relay would be suspended for the duration of the mourning period.

Many websites converted their front page to black and white; Sina.com and Sohu, major internet portals, limited their homepages to news items and removed all advertisements. Chinese video sharing websites youku and Tudou displayed a black background and only videos related to the earthquake were available on the homepage. The Chinese version of MSN, cn.msn.com, also displayed banners about the earthquake and the relief efforts. Other entertainment websites, including various gaming sites, were also blacked out, or had corresponding links to earthquake donations. After the moments of silence, in Tiananmen Square, crowds spontaneously burst out cheering various slogans, including "Long Live China". Casinos in Macau closed down, and servers for online computer games (such as World of Warcraft) were shut down.

All Mainland Chinese television stations, along with some Hong Kong stations, displayed their logo in grayscale, while broadcasting non-stop earthquake footage from CCTV-1. Even pay television channels, such as Channel V China, showed earthquake footage. Foreign broadcasts in expatriate communities were suspended for the days of mourning.

On the evening of 18 May, CCTV-1 hosted a special four-hour program called The Giving of Love ( simplified Chinese: 爱的奉献; traditional Chinese: 愛的奉獻), hosted by regulars from the CCTV New Year's Gala and continual coverage anchor Bai Yansong, and attended by a wide range of entertainment, literary, business and political figures from mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. Donations of the evening totalled 1.5 billion Chinese Yuan (US$208 million). Of the donations, CCTV gave the biggest corporate contribution at Y50 million.

On 24 May, Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan, who donated $1.57 million to the victims, announced that he wished to make a movie about the Sichuan earthquake, saying that “I want to make a movie about the earthquake because there were so many touching stories; through this movie, we will be able to show the whole world what happened.”

Collapse of schools

This kindergarten was among the many schools in the disaster region that suffered heavy structural damage.
This kindergarten was among the many schools in the disaster region that suffered heavy structural damage.

Although the Chinese government was initially praised for its response to the quake (especially in comparison to Myanmar's ruling military junta's blockade of aid during Cyclone Nargis), it has seen an erosion in confidence over the school construction scandal.

The central government estimates that over 7,000 schoolrooms collapsed in the earthquake. Due to PRC's one-child policy, many families lost an only child when schools in the region collapsed during the earthquake. Consequently, local officials in Sichuan province have lifted the restriction for families whose only child was either killed or severely injured in the disaster. So-called "illegal children" under 18 years of age may be registered as legal replacements for their dead siblings; if the dead child was illegal, no further outstanding fines would apply. Reimbursment would not, however, be offered for fines that were already levied. Lifting of the restrictions may come as scant comfort to many, as some of the affected parents are too old to conceive again, while others have had themselves sterilized.

On 29 May, Government officials began inspecting the ruins of thousands of schools that collapsed, searching for clues about why they crumbled. Thousands of parents around the province have accused local officials and builders of cutting corners in school construction, citing that after the quake other nearby buildings were little damaged. Local officials urged them not to protest but the parents demonstrated and demanded an investigation. Censors have discouraged stories of poorly-built schools from being published in the media and there has been an incident where police drove away the protestors. On Children's Day, 1 June 2008, many parents went to the rubbles of schools to mourn for their children. The surviving children, who were now mostly living in refugee camps performed ceremonies marking the special day but also of the earthquake.

Ye Zhiping, the principal of Sangzao Middle School in Sangzao, one of the largest in An County, is credited with proactive action that spared the lives of all 2323 pupils in attendance when the earthquake happened. During a three-year period that ended in 2007, he oversaw a major overhaul of his school. During that time he obtained more than 400,000 yuan (US$60,000) from the county education department, money used to widen and strengthen concrete pillars and the balcony railing of all four stories of his school, as well as secure its concrete floors.

AP reported that "The entire state-controlled media have almost completely ignored the issue, apparently under the instructions of the propaganda bureau. Parents and volunteers helping them who have questioned authorities about the issue have been rounded up, detained, and threatened."

However Reuters reported that Chinese prosecutors have so far joined an official inquiry into ten collapsed schools during last month's devastating earthquake to gain first-hand material of construction quality at the collapsed schools, launch preliminary inquiries and prepare for possible investigations into professional crime. It was also reported that safety checks are to be carried out at schools across China after last month's earthquake.

The New York Times reported that "government officials in Beijing and Sichuan have said they are investigating the collapses. In an acknowledgment of the weakness of building codes in the countryside, the National Development and Reform Commission said on 27 May that it had drafted an amendment to improve construction standards for primary and middle schools in rural areas. Experts are reviewing the draft, the commission said." To limit protest Officials push parents to sign a document which engage them not to hold protest in exchange of money, some refusing to sign have been threatened

Foreign and domestic aid

Because of the magnitude of the quake, and the media attention on China, foreign nations and organizations immediately responded to the disaster by offering condolences and assistance. On 14 May, UNICEF reported that China has formally requested the support of the international community to respond to the needs of affected families.

Mainland China

By 14 May, the Ministry of Civil Affairs stated that 10.7 billion yuan (approximately US$1.5 billion) had been donated by the Chinese public. Houston Rockets centre Yao Ming, one of the country's most popular sports icons, gave $214,000 and $71,000 to the Red Cross Society of China. The association has also collected a total of $26 million in donations so far. Other multinational firms located in China have also announced large amounts of donations.

The Red Cross Society of China flew 557 tents and 2,500 quilts valued at 788,000 yuan (US$113,000) to Wenchuan County. The Amity Foundation already began relief work in the region and has earmarked US$143,000 for disaster relief. The Sichuan Ministry of Civil Affairs said that they have provided 30,000 tents for those left homeless.

On 15 May, United Daily News reported that the top ten richest people in mainland China had only donated a little over 32.5 million yuan (US$4.6 million) altogether as of 13 May, drawing accusations of selfishness and callousness from Chinese internet users.

Following the earthquake, donations were made by people from all over mainland China, with booths set up in schools, at banks, and around gas stations. People also donated blood, resulting in according to Xinhua long line-ups in most major Chinese cities. Many donated through text messaging on mobile phones to accounts set up by China Unicom and China Mobile By 16 May, the Chinese government had allocated a total of $772 million for earthquake relief so far, up sharply from $159 million from 14 May. On 16 May China stated it had also received $457 million in donated money and goods for rescue efforts so far, including $83 million from 19 countries and four international organizations.

Predictions and Precursors

In 2002, Chinese geologist CHEN Xuezhong published a forecast about a high probability of a large earthquake in the Sichuan-Yunnan region in the next two years. Several other warnings were also published, though not as specific.

Shortly after the earthquake, claims and debates about pre-existing short-term predictions started to surface in blogs in China and other places, although most have subsequently been removed from sites in mainland China. The most widely circulated was an entry in Hongkong based Sina.com posted on May 13, 2008, claiming that during a meeting on 26 April, 2008, Chinese geologist GENG Qingguo, who was also said to have predicted the 1976 Tangshan earthquake but ignored, predicted a 7+ magnitude earthquake to strike Ngawa Prefecture, Sichuan on 8 May, 2008, ±10 days, and that this prediction was dismissed by mainstream seismologists, as was his 2006 prediction of a severe earthquake in the area. Unlike another widely known entry on a Wuhan, Hubei based site originally posted on May 7, 2008 whose content was believed to have been hoaxed after the quake, copies of the Geng Qingguo story can still be found in some sites in mainland China as late as in September.

In a press conference held by the State Council Information Office the day after the earthquake,, geologist ZHANG Xiaodong, deputy director of CEA's Seismic Monitoring Network Centre, restated that earthquake prediction was a "World problem", and that no prediction notification was received before the earthquake.

Geologist Gary Gibson from the Seismology Research Centre at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that "I had nothing unusual at all that you would regard as precursory."

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