Quake Kills 257, Injures 1,000 in China 

2003/02/24 02:03 M 6.3 SOUTHERN XINJIANG, CHINA Z= 33km 39.64N 77.20E


Quake Kills Over 250, Injures 1,000 in China

By Brian Rhoads and Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING (Reuters) - A devastating earthquake shook western China Monday, killing at least 257 people, injuring more than 1,000 and flattening homes, schools and other buildings near the Silk Road oasis of Kashgar.

People's Liberation Army soldiers and rescue workers combed the rubble for injured and dead from the mid-morning quake, the worst to strike the Xinjiang region in five decades, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale.

Hours after the quake, aftershocks rattled nerves, forcing villagers outdoors in near-freezing temperatures -- too afraid to venture into their homes for fear of further damage.

Relatives of victims in the predominantly Muslim region began funeral rites for the dead as officials in the regional capital Urumqi organized shipments of relief supplies.

"It was very frightening. The earthquake happened when I was riding my bicycle to the office. I've never experienced this before," Abuliti, an official at a branch of the People's Bank of China in Bachu County, said by telephone.

"We are working in the office now, our office building suffered little damage and nobody died in our bank, but some one-story houses collapsed," he said.

The earthquake -- according to Xinhua news agency the deadliest to hit Xinjiang since the Communists took power in 1949 -- rocked the dry desert region bordering Central Asian states at 10:03 a.m., officials said.

"It's rare for so many people to have died in an earthquake here," Zhang Yong, a section director of the Xinjiang Seismological Bureau, told Reuters.

The central government sent a special team, headed by a vice minister of civil affairs, to investigate and Vice Premier Wen Jiabao took charge of the relief effort, Xinhua reported.

The State Council, or cabinet, and ruling Communist Party offered condolences, the semi-official China News Service said.

The epicenter was in sparsely populated Jiashi, 100 miles east of Kashgar. Witnesses and officials said Bachu county, further east, and its 370,000 residents suffered the most.


Zhou Mingcheng, a private businessman who runs a flour mill in stricken Arlagen village in Bachu county, and his family escaped from their collapsing home in the nick of time.

"We were sleeping at the time, and it was still dark. We ran out immediately when it began to shake," Zhou said.

The sun rises late in Xinjiang, which is thousands of miles west of Beijing though they remain on the same single Chinese time zone.

Two of the four rooms in his home became rubble, but Zhou considered himself lucky -- more than 100 people in his village of 1,000 were feared dead.

"Lots of rooms here collapsed. There is no electricity. Lots of people are outside now and no one dares stay at home."

Officials with the local seismological bureaus in Kashgar and Urumqi said the toll had risen to 257 by 5 p.m.

Funerals for victims, many of them members of the Muslim Uighur ethnic group, had already begun in line with a tradition of burying family members on the same day of death.

"Some people are holding funerals in accordance with Uighur tradition, while rescue workers are attending to the injured," said a Kashgar official who would only give his surname, Zhang.

"The place is a complete chaos," he said.


Many victims were students at a Bachu county school that was flattened, said Suyu, deputy director of the county civil affairs bureau. The quake also leveled a one-story clinic, he said.

Officials in Urumqi and Bachu began sending grain, milk and blankets to five hardest-hit villages and townships in the county, where temperatures were hovering only a few degrees above freezing.

The Chinese Red Cross was preparing to send 2,000 quilts and 1,000 coats for those left homeless, Xinhua said.

In Beijing, visiting Secretary of State Colin Powell offered his condolences to Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

"I was sorry to learn just in the last few minutes of the earthquake in western China and the loss of life. I want to express my regrets to the Chinese people," Powell said.

The ground trembled as aftershocks shook the region for much of the day.

"Aftershocks happen one after another now. The biggest one was around 5.0 on the Richter scale," said an official from the seismological bureau in Kashgar.

"We could feel the quake very strongly. Some of the things on the wall fell to the ground in our office," he said.

Earthquakes are common in China and regularly rattle the vast Tibetan plateau including Xinjiang, Qinghai province and Tibet, but few have been so deadly.

An earthquake in January 1997 killed 50 in Xinjiang. Nine people were killed in a quake there in April that year.

A quake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale devastated Tangshan near China's capital Beijing on July 27, 1976, killing an estimated 250,000 people.

Race to save China quake victims

A huge rescue and relief operation is under way in north-western China after it was hit by an earthquake that killed more than 250 people and injured at least 1,000.

Rescuers are searching for survivors in the rubble of 1,000 buildings that collapsed during Monday morning's tremor, which had a magnitude of up to 6.8 and was centred on Bachu County in the Xinjiang region.

Many people are spending the night outdoors in freezing temperatures, either because they lost their homes or because structural damage and subsequent aftershocks have made them nervous to return indoors.

Supplies of food, tents, blankets and clothes have been despatched to the arid region, which is situated near the borders with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and largely populated by the Muslim Uighur minority.

Survivors and injured people were digging in the debris around their collapsed houses with bleeding hands, calling the names of missing relatives

Bachu official

Funeral ceremonies for many of the dead have already been held, in line with Muslim practice.

The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers - who include thousands of soldiers and paramilitary policemen stationed in the region - recover bodies from under toppled buildings.

At least one local official has blamed the high number of casualties on the poor quality of buildings in the area.

Among the buildings destroyed was at least one school, many of whose pupils are feared to have been buried in the rubble.

Sniffer dogs

The central government in Beijing has promised emergency funds and sent a team led by a vice-minister to oversee relief efforts.

A 42-member earthquake rescue team equipped with sniffer dogs is also on the way to the region.

The earthquake was measured as having a magnitude of 6.8 by China's official Xinhua news agency and 6.3 by the US Geological Survey.

It struck as people were getting up or having breakfast.

"Survivors and injured people were digging in the debris around their collapsed houses with bleeding hands, calling the names of missing relatives," a Bachu county official told the Associated Press news agency.


Businessman Zhou Mingcheng said he and his family just managed to escape from their collapsing home in Arlagen village.

"We were sleeping at the time, and it was still dark. We ran out immediately when it began to shake."

More than 100 people in his village of 1,000 were feared dead, he said. His family lost most of the rooms in their home.

"Lots of buildings here collapsed. There is no electricity. Lots of people are outside now and no one dares stay at home."

A doctor at the People's Hospital in Bachu said all the beds were full.

"The injured are being admitted to the hospital one after another. We are still counting the numbers," he said.

Messages of condolence from world leaders have been received by the Chinese Government.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, in China for talks on Iraq and North Korea, said: "I was sorry to learn... of the earthquake in western China and the loss of life.

"I want to express my regrets to the Chinese people."

History of quakes

The province has suffered a number of powerful earthquakes in the past few years.

But the sparse population has meant that casualties have usually been low.

More than 20 people were killed in March 1996 when a quake of 6.9 magnitude hit.

A further 12 people were killed in a quake in January 1997, and another nine died in a subsequent tremor in April of the same year.

Earthquakes in more populated regions have had a much higher death toll.

A quake measuring 7.9 shook Tangshan near China's capital Beijing in 1976, killing an estimated 250,000 people.

China Quakes Kill 4, Injure 220...01/15/00

BEIJING (AP) -- Two earthquakes collapsed about 4,000 buildings in southwest China on Saturday, killing at least four people and injuring 220, officials said.

Yao'an County, in province of Yunnan, was first hit by a 6.0-magnitude quake that sent people scurrying out of their homes in the early morning. About 1 1/2 hours later, the county was hit by an even stronger aftershock, of 6.5 magnitude, said a county seismologist who gave only his surname, Su.

Four people were killed, said a Yunnan government seismologist, surnamed Wu, without specifying how they died. Another 220 were injured and 4,000 buildings collapsed, said the State Seismology Bureau in Beijing.

The main compound of Yao'an's government headquarters was seriously damaged, and power in the area was cut, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said. The authorities and media did not specify which tremor caused which damages and injuries.

In the town of Guantun, 18 miles from Yao'an, the early morning quakes woke tens of thousands of people and sent residents flocking into the streets, Xinhua said.

A strong tremor also was felt in the provincial capital Kunming, about 125 miles to the east of Yao'an, it said. Yao'an was also hit by a 6.5-magnitude quake in 1962, and a 5.6-magnitude quake on August 14, 1993, Xinhua said.

Monday, January 12, 1998

3. China Braces for Aftershocks, Strong Quakes (Reuters)

January 12, 1998

BEIJING Thousands of Chinese peasants left homeless in sub-freezing temperatures by an earthquake braced on Monday for aftershocks, and a government seismologist warned that powerful quakes could hit the country again this century.

Chinese soldiers rushed food, coats and tents to devastated farm villages near the Great Wall as the death toll from Saturday's earthquake climbed to 50.

The official Xinhua news agency said Gao Xu, deputy director of the Beijing Seismological Bureau, warned of the possibility of aftershocks measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale.

More than 200 aftershocks have been recorded since Saturday's earthquake, which measured 6.2 on the Richter scale, hit Zhangbei and Shangyi counties in northern Hebei province.

The earthquake has toppled 130,000 mud and brick houses and affected 542,000 people.

Gao also warned of more powerful earthquakes before the turn of the century. "In the next three years, several earthquakes measuring over 7.0 could occur,'' the semi-official China News Service quoted him as saying.

China has recorded eight earthquakes measuring over 7.0 since 1988 in southwestern Yunnan province, northwestern Qinghai and Xinjiang regions, the Himalayan region of Tibet and southeastern Fujian province, it said.

China suffered its worst earthquake in modern history in 1976, when a tremor measuring 7.8 levelled the northern city of Tangshan, killing at least 240,000 people.

Seismologists said the death toll from Saturday's tremor had risen to 50 by Monday. More than 10,000 people were injured, about 1,200 of whom were seriously hurt.

State television on Monday showed People's Liberation Army soldiers loading overcoats and makeshift tents on trucks bound for disaster areas.

The official People's Daily splashed pictures of soldiers clearing rubble and unloading overcoats from a truck for earthquake victims in Dahe village.

The mouthpiece of the Communist Party ran another picture of officials distributing instant noodles to victims.

The China Daily ran on its front page a picture of soldiers helping a peasant in Heidigou village dig out food from his dilapidated house.

Xinhua said the military airlifted 55,000 lb of steamed buns and Chinese pancakes to the disaster area.

China's state-owned National Petrochemical Corp said the tremor did not damage its two oil refineries in Hebei province.

Beijing Datang Power Generation Co Ltd said the earthquake did not damage its two power plants in Hebei.

Chinese officials said there was no damage to the 3,750-mile Great Wall, southeast of the epicentre of the earthquake. The 2,200-year-old wall, crumbling in many sections, runs the entire length of north China and was built centuries ago to keep out invaders.

Witnesses described the region as a barren moonscape of frozen snow and rocky fields with few barriers to the harsh winds sweeping down from nearby Inner Mongolia.

Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto cabled his Chinese counterpart, Li Peng, to offer his sympathies, Xinhua said.

Japan's Red Cross Society has donated 10,000 blankets to earthquake victims, officials said.

Twin quakes kill 12 in western China

January 21, 1997

XINJIANG PROVINCE, China (CNN) -- Two strong earthquakes rocked China's westernmost region in rapid succession Tuesday, killing at least 12 people, injuring 27 and forcing more than 2,500 families to flee damaged homes in the bitter cold, officials said.

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit at 9:47 a.m. (0147 GMT). It was followed by a 6.3 quake a minute later. The epicenter was 12 miles (20 kilometers) north of the city of Jiashi.

An official of the State Seismological Bureau said the number of casualties could rise as rescue teams and officials searched through rubble of collapsed houses. An eight-year- old child, crushed to death, was among the casualties.

Dozens of aftershocks made people afraid to return to their homes, despite freezing temperatures, officials said.

The remote desert area, 2,000 miles west of Beijing, is populated mainly by sheep herders and cotton farmers.

A magnitude 6.9 earthquake hit the same area last March, killing 24 people and injuring 80. In the past decade, Xinjiang province has been rocked by 10 earthquakes registering over 6.0.

The region is still reeling from the heaviest blizzards in three decades, which have killed at least 36 people, and left as many as 320,000 cut off or trapped by snowdrifts.

Tuesday's twin jolts followed a magnitude 5.0 earthquake that struck an isolated area of neighboring central Tibet on Monday morning, causing no reported casualties.

Reuters contributed to this report.

FROM:  http://www.usembassy-china.org.cn/english/sandt/webseis.htm


A report from U.S. Embassy Beijing February 1997

Summary: The Chinese State Seismological Bureau has determined that China in 1988 entered its fifth period of high seismic activity of this century. Seismic activity during 1994 - 1996 which ran at twice the twentieth century annual average suggests that over the next several years China will see the climax of the fifth period. According to analysis of previous periods, ten quakes of magnitude seven and one or two quakes of higher magnitude can be expected. The fourth high seismic activity period [1966 - 1976] climaxed with the 1976 Tangshan earthquake that killed several hundred thousand people in the industrial city of Tangshan located 150 kilometers ESE of Beijing. Earthquake monitoring and research are an important part of Sino-U.S. scientific cooperation. Chinese scientists have made progress on very short-term [one hour] earthquake prediction using satellite-based infrared remote imaging. End summary.

Ten Magnitude Seven Quakes Expected in 5th Peak Period

A State Seismological Bureau official told Embassy Beijing Environment, Science and Technology officer that ten magnitude seven earthquakes are to be expected during the fifth peak period of seismic activity which began in 1988 and will conclude early in the next century. See Table One below for a summary of the previous four peak periods of seismic activity. The official said that earthquakes are to be expected in areas which have had them before. Since earthquakes in China are more widely distributed than in other countries, however, places which have never had an earthquake could have one.

[Comment: The fourth high seismic activity period [1966 - 1976] climaxed with the 1976 Tangshan earthquake that killed several hundred thousand people in the industrial city of Tangshan located 150 kilometers ESE of Beijing. Although damage in Beijing was much less, some buildings collapsed. Much of the foreign community, including the U.S. Liaison office personnel, were evacuated. End comment]

Beijing, Shanghai Tremors Rouse Quake Fears

The Seismological Bureau official attributed the recent earthquake scares in Beijing and Shanghai to a recent small earthquake felt in the Beijing area and to a moderate quake beneath the Yellow Sea that was felt in the Shanghai area. Spells of unseasonably warm weather also tend to make people think that something is wrong and that an earthquake will come, said the official.

Seismology Bureau Vice Director Tang: 1996 Seismic Activity Twice-Normal, Now At Peak Of Fifth Active Period

State Seismological Bureau Vice Director Tang Quan

[STC: 3282 3123], discussed with the Jinling Wanbao [6855 7117 2579 1032], a Nanjing newspaper, on December 21, 1996 Chinese earthquakes during 1996. Tang said that China as of late November, 1996 had had 37 earthquakes of magnitude five or greater, including eleven of magnitude six or greater. Eight of the eleven magnitude six or greater earthquakes took place on land. Of the eight earthquakes on land, three were of about magnitude seven including the 7.0 magnitude quake in Lijiang, Yunan Province [26 degrees, 46 minutes N, 101 degrees, 15 minutes E] in early '96, the 6.9 quake at Atushe City, Xinjiang Autonomous Region [39 degrees, 36 minutes N, 76 degrees, 8 minutes E] and the November 19 Kelakunshan Mountain range 7.1 quake in the southwestern corner of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region.

Second Half of Period Most Dangerous, Risk Mag 7 Quakes

Tang said that the 37 earthquakes of magnitude five or greater and 8 quakes of magnitude six or greater during 1996 doubled the twentieth century annual average of nineteen and three respectively. Tang pointed out that 1996 was the third consecutive year of twice-normal seismic activity. Tang pointed out that the most recent period of high seismic activity, the fourth which lasted from 1966 - 1976, concluded with six earthquakes of magnitude seven or greater. Tang said that statistical analyses of the four previous periods of high seismic activity shows more activity in the second half of the period. Tang concluded that China has entered the climax of the fifth period of high seismic activity which has an especially high risk of magnitude seven or greater earthquakes.

A State Seismological Bureau official provided Embassy with the following State Seismological Bureau press background information which was written in March 1996, but was released only recently. Embassy unofficial translation of the Chinese text follows.




State Seismological Bureau on Increasing Earthquake Risk

Mainland China, located between two of the world's major seismic belts -- the Circum-Pacific Seismic Belt and the Eurasia Seismic Belt, suffers from frequent continental earthquakes. Movements of the Circum-Pacific Plate, the India Plate and the Philippine Plate have created large seismic fault zones in China. All of China's 23 main seismic belts have a history of violent earthquakes. Since 1900, a total 29 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have had nearly 600 earthquakes of over magnitude 6. The high frequency, high magnitude, shallow focal depth and wide distribution of characteristics of Chinese earthquakes combine to create very serious disasters.

Chinese Quakes Claimed Half of World's Quake Victims

Since 1900, Chinese earthquakes have killed 550,000 people, over half [53 percent] the number of all people killed by earthquakes worldwide during the Twentieth Century. Since 1949, the more than 100 destructive earthquakes have struck 22 provinces, regions and municipalities together account for again over half [54 percent] of all Chinese disaster victims. Quakes destroyed seven million houses in the 300,000 sq. Km area affected by quakes since 1949.

Cycles of Ten Magnitude Seven Quakes, Then Calm Period

Alternation between high and low activity periods, called by seismologists transmigration, characterizes Chinese earthquakes. During each peak period more than ten big earthquakes of magnitude 7 and one even larger one of magnitude 8 can be expected.

Severe Earthquakes Expected During the Next Several Years

China has thus far had four seismically active periods since the beginning of this century. Some Chinese seismologists, based upon their experience and statistical analysis of Chinese earthquakes, have determined that China entered the fifth seismically active period at the end of the 1980s. This active period will last until the beginning of next century. They predict that China's continental land mass [excluding Taiwan Province] will, during this 5th seismically active period, have several earthquakes of magnitude 7 or even one or two larger earthquakes. The Chinese seismologists conclude that China faces the prospect of severe earthquakes over the next few years.




Quake Patterns Emerge From Rich Chinese Experience

The Chinese government has supported intense studies of earthquake geology and prediction since the Xingtai earthquake of 1966. The State Seismological Bureau musters an array of survey technologies in space, air, and on the ground to collect information on China's unfortunately rich experience with earthquakes. The prediction of especially frequent and severe earthquakes over the next several years is one result of an analysis of detailed seismic records accumulated over the thirty years that have passed since the Xingtai earthquake.

Earthquake Studies: An Important Part of PRC - US Scientific Cooperation

Earthquake research, one of the more active areas of Sino-American cooperation in science and technology, continues to offer many opportunities for China and the United States to learn from each other's experience. The U.S. Geological Survey signed an agreement with the Chinese State Seismological Bureau on January 24, 1980, and extended in 1995, which provides for U.S. cooperation with the "Chinese Digital Seismic Network" [CSDN] which provides high quality seismological data to researchers in both China and the U.S. The U.S. Geological Survey provides equipment for eleven earthquake monitoring stations in the CSDN. State Seismological Bureau personnel operate the stations. The USGS added an additional station in Ulaanbataar in cooperation with the Mongolian government.

Chinese Progress Short-Term Earthquake Prediction Using Infrared Remote Imaging

State Seismological Bureau Vice Director Ge Zhizhou [STC: 5514 3112 3166] has called the 50 percent very short-term [one hour] prediction success rate achieved by satellite-based infrared remote imaging experiments during 1996 "a very important achievement" according to a front-page story on the earthquake prediction experiments in the January 29, 1997 issue of Space News [Zhongguo Hangtian Bao]. Short-term predictions of seventy minutes or more were achieved before 1996 earthquakes at Lijiang, Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula, and the southern part of the Yellow Sea. Predictions of stronger quakes -- three magnitude 7 and two magnitude 6 quakes were especially accurate. Further research will include developing a model for a satellite-based infrared imaging short-term earthquake warning system, better analysis of multispectral data to improve detection of earthquake-indicating anomalies, and mitigating the deleterious effects of cloud cover on infrared remote sensing.

Table 1

Five Seismically Active Periods [SAP] in Mainland China during this Century [Excluding Taiwan]

Source: Chinese State Seismological Bureau
Years Above Mag. 7 Death Toll Notes
1895 - 1906 10 ?
1920 - 1934 12 250 - 300,000
1947 - 1955 14 10 - 20,000 Qinghai and Tibet
1966 - 1976 14 270,000


EARTHQUAKE on 01/09/2003 at 23:16 (UTC)




Latitude = 38.74 N

Longitude = 75.20 E

Origin Time = 23:16:39.6 (UTC)

Depth = 33 Km

RMS = 1.01 sec

Gap = 51 degrees

95% confidence ellipse: - Semi major = 11.1 Km

- Semi minor = 5.7 Km

- Azimuth of major axis = 178 degrees

Number of data used = 252

Preliminary location computed on Mon Sep 1 23:51:53 2003 (UTC)

Done by Jean-Paul Santoire

Comments :

Message number: 185

All magnitudes estimations :

mb6.2 (GFZ) M 5.8 (INGV) mb6.0 (LDG) mb5.7 (LED)

mb5.7 (NEIC) mb5.6 (NEWS) mb5.4 (NEWS) mb6.2 (NOR)

mb6.2 (NOR) mb5.6 (ODC) mb5.5 (RNS) mb6.0 (SED)