13 dead

compiled by Dee Finney

EARTHQUAKE on 26/11/2005 at 00:49 (UTC)
SOUTHEASTERN CHINA                14 km NW Shahejie


Data provided by: BRA  BUC  GFZ  GSRC LDG  MCSM NEIC NEWS NOR      

Latitude    =  29.70 N
Longitude   = 115.76 E
Origin Time =  00:49:34.9 (UTC)
Depth       =   2 Km
RMS         =   1.14 sec
Gap         =  61 degrees
95% confidence ellipse: - Semi major = 7.9 Km
                        - Semi minor = 6.1 Km
                        - Azimuth of major axis =  46 degrees

Number of data used = 133

Preliminary location computed on Sat Nov 26 07:51:39 2005 (UTC)
Done by Gilles Mazet-Roux
Message number: 622

All magnitudes estimations :
mb5.6 (BRA)   mb5.6 (GFZ)   MS4.9 (GSRC)  mb5.4 (LDG)  
M 5.5 (NEIC)  mb5.0 (NEWS)  mb5.0 (NOR)  

P.S.: For additional information, please contact EMSC at:
             - Email: mazet[at]
             - Web  : (maps available)
             - Fax  : 33 1 69 26 70 00

Posted on Sat, Nov. 26, 2005

Earthquake in central China kills 15

A strong earthquake struck central China on Saturday, killing at least 15 people, injuring more than 450 and destroying hundreds of buildings, the government said.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the magnitude-5.7 quake hit Saturday morning and was centered in central Jiangxi province's Ruichang city near the border of Hubei province. The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake had a magnitude of 5.5. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.

Most of the damage occurred in Ruichang and in the popular resort town of Jiujiang, it said. At least 14 people were killed and 377 were injured, Xinhua said.

In their village near Ruichang, Zhang Xuping and his family dashed from their home as soon as they felt the ground shaking. Minutes later, their neighbor was killed and buildings near them collapsed.

"I felt very strong shocks, lasting about six to seven seconds," Zhang said in a telephone interview on Sunday. "We fled immediately."

Authorities told villagers not to stay indoors on Saturday but had not provided any more information or assistance since, he said.

"We cut wood to build shelters," Zhang said. "All of the people in the village stayed outdoors last night."

In neighboring Hubei province, one person died and 81 were injured, including 78 students caught in a stampede during evacuation, Xinhua said.

Chinese Central Television news showed rows of crumbled brick buildings and deep cracks in the walls of buildings still standing in Ruichang.

The news showed a young boy with his head heavily bandaged and a man crying on a bench as he cradled an injured leg. An old man and his injured wife shared a cot at a makeshift medical center set up in the street.

Many people in Ruichang, which has a population of about 420,000 people, were staying outside for fear of more aftershocks and 1,000 tents were being sent to the area, Xinhua said.

Temperatures in the region were relatively mild, hovering around 50 degrees, weather reports said.


China quake leaves thousands homeless

AT LEAST 15 people were killed, hundreds injured and thousands of homes destroyed in an earthquake near a popular tourist destination in eastern China yesterday morning.

The quake, the biggest in the region in 56 years, was felt in cities hundreds of kilometres away.

The China National Seismic Observation Network said the quake had measured 5.7 on the Richter scale.

It said a relatively powerful aftershock had been felt about an hour after the quake.

"We'd just finished our breakfast when we heard a huge roar like someone setting off really loud firecrackers," a Civil Affairs Ministry official in Ruichang, a city in Jiangxi province, said.

"Then the houses started shaking and just jumped outside."

The official said that in and around Ruichang more than 420,000 people had left their homes, fearing the quake might not be the last.

"Basically, everyone in Ruichang is huddling in the street," he said.

In the Chinese capital of Beijing, the Civil Affairs Ministry was preparing to send emergency relief supplies to the region.

Seven hours after the quake, official media reported 14 people were confirmed dead, while more than 370 were injured, 20 seriously.

The epicentre was near Jiujiang, home to half a million people and a popular scenic spot that was praised by Tang dynasty poets more than a millennium ago.

The US Geological Survey said the quake had occurred about 10km below the Earth's surface.

That made it a so-called "shallow" earthquake, similar to the devastating quake that struck Kashmir in early October.

Gao Jianguo, an earthquake expert, was quoted by as saying the affected area was not known as an active seismic area.

"The biggest earthquake in recent years in Jiangxi struck in 1987, measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale," he said.

"This is the biggest since 1949."


A man walks on the ice-covered Songhua River in Harbin, in northeast China's Heilongjiang province, Friday 25 November 2005. The official figures say the nitrobenzene in the water reached 0.58mg/l, 33.15 times over the state tolerance standard. EPA/NIU YIXIN

Hundreds of thousands used 'lethal' water
By Peter Goff in Harbin
(Filed: 27/11/2005)

Hundreds of thousands of people living in towns and villages along the upper reaches of the Songhua river were allowed to continue using toxic water for more than a week, even though authorities knew that benzene levels were lethally high, Chinese officials have admitted.

Anger was growing in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces as new details emerged of how officials lied to conceal the fact that a potentially deadly 50-mile long slick was slowly flowing through cities, towns and villages.

The sprawling city of Harbin remained the centre of containment efforts this weekend, with its water cut off for a fifth day.

But the authorities revealed that millions of people who live closer to the chemical plant where a huge blast occurred two weeks ago, releasing cancer-causing compounds, were kept in the dark for 10 days - despite the fact that some drew water regularly from the polluted river.

A water official in Jilin province said the decision not to reveal that in some places benzene levels were 108 times above the safety level was made because "we did not want to panic the public".

The official, who asked not to be named, revealed that the water supply had also been cut off from 100,000 homes in Songyuan, upstream of Harbin, for six days, but householders were not told the true reason.

"We announced we were doing maintenance on the system," he said. As a result, he admitted, it was likely that farmers and people in rural areas drank and used polluted water from the river.

The debacle has shaken trust in China's rulers. "We were not told anything, not a word," said Xu Chun, a businesswoman who lives near Songyuan.

"People used the water as usual. The first thing we heard about this was a few days ago. The news said there was dangerous pollution heading towards Harbin. So then we knew it must have already gone through our city."

Hundreds of thousands of people draw their water from the river along the 170-mile stretch upstream of Harbin, many of them manually, according to Chinese environmentalists, and would not have known it was unsafe.

The explosion at the state-owned PetroChina plant in Jilin province occurred on November 13 and authorities immediately emptied an entire reservoir into the river in an effort to dilute the 100 tons of benzene compounds that had been released, while insisting that there was no environmental threat.

Jilin officials waited six days before telling their neighbours in Heilongjiang province, downstream of the explosion, about the potential disaster.

On November 21 the authorities in Heilongjiang decided to shut off Harbin's water supply, also pretending that they were carrying out "repair and inspection work", but their hopes of quelling panic backfired.

No one believed that the government would choose the first days of winter to begin routine repairs. Amid rumours that an earthquake was imminent, the city descended into chaos and thousands of people began to flee.

The governor of the province, Zhang Zuoji, told a meeting of 400 officials to continue lying until the authorities in Beijing gave permission for the truth to be divulged, according to a report in China Newsweek.

On Tuesday, nine days after the explosion, Beijing finally gave the go-ahead, condemning the deceit and announcing that the culprits would be brought to justice, in an attempt to limit the political damage.

China's tightly restrained domestic media was allowed to publish vitriolic attacks on those directly behind the cover-up and expose details from behind the scenes. By Friday, however, the central government was reining in the media again.

One national newspaper reporter said: "We had a fun time for a couple of days. Beijing needed to show the people they were taking this seriously. But then they were afraid the reports would make people angry. It could cause instability, so they told us all to go home."

But the damage to the ruling Communist Party's credibility has already been done. "How could they not tell us anything when people's lives are in danger?" Ms Xu asked. "It's disgraceful."

Wu Guoqiang, a retired doctor from the city of Zhaoyuan, which also sits on the banks of the Songhua river, said that after the explosion people had been using the water as normal for days.

"Of course, people were drinking it and fishing in it and washing with it," he said. "They only stopped when the reports of the pollution came out. But by then it was too late. The pollution had come and gone.

"It is a problem in China. The officials try to hide the truth. They are afraid of having to pay compensation, or of losing their jobs if they report accidents to their superiors. That attitude has to change."

On the chilly streets of Harbin things have begun to return to relative normality, despite the fact that the city of 3.8 million people is now in its fifth day without running water or flushing lavatories.

Yesterday officials said concentrations of benzene had fallen to safe levels, but nitrobenzene levels were still three times too high. There are fears that contaminants could be trapped longer term, as the river has started to freeze over.

On Friday night, the Blues Club in the centre of the city was packed with young revellers. Wang Mengying, a 24-year-old office assistant, said: "We just have to get on with life. The pollution should pass in a day or two and things will get back to normal. But it's funny to be here tonight and see hundreds of people dancing, lots of them looking so cool, when you know nobody has had a shower for four days."

On the streets, grumpy queues of elderly people with pots, buckets and kettles waited for tankers and fire engines to bring clean water. Many were beginning to realise that they were luckier than those people upstream, who had not been told of the danger in time.

One woman, Chen Xiaoying, said she feared for her younger sister, who lived near Zhaoyuan city with her husband and 10-year-old girl, Li Li.

"They used the water all the time," she said. "It's OK for the government to say sorry and sack some people. But what will happen if the child gets sick? People say this poison can make you really ill, even kill you. Who will pay for that? They could never pay for that."


China admits water cutoff in second city over pollution

Nov 25, 2005, 15:18 GMT

Beijing - An official in a second city on northeastern China's Songhua River admitted Friday that water supplies were suspended to more than 100,000 people there after earlier denials that a moving slick of toxic chemicals had affected the city.


The water supply in Songyuan in Jilin province was suspended for 'about six days' and resumed Wednesday, a city government official told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa by telephone.

Public water supplies were also suspended Wednesday to 3.8 million people in the downstream city of Harbin as an 80-kilometre slick of nitrobenzene and benzene approached.

Harbin officials did not inform local residents of the approaching slick until Tuesday even though it leaked into the river after an explosion at a petrochemical plant on November 13.

Jilin provincial government leaders and officials from the state-run petrochemical firm had travelled to Harbin to apologize for the contamination, the official China Daily said in a commentary on Friday.

'But they never apologized for the hiding of the truth,' the newspaper said.

'We do not know what is behind the coverup,' it said. 'It might be because they were afraid that they would have to pay money for the losses the pollution has incurred in Harbin, and it might be because they were afraid of losing face.'

The government planned to ship 1,000 tonnes of activated carbon to Harbin on Friday to help clean up the chemicals.

The activated carbon would be moved to Harbin by road from coal-producing areas in the northern provinces of Shanxi and Hebei on Friday evening, state media said.

Most of the carbon is likely to be used in Harbin's water treatment plants to absorb the pollutants, the official Xinhua news agency and other media said.

City officials have ordered the water treatment plants to finish upgrading their filtration ponds by 6 p.m. Saturday, the reports said.

The main pollutants are nitrobenzene and benzene, and the concentrations of nitrobenzene in the Songhua on Friday remained 30 times above safe levels, officials said.

Public water supplies were cut off in Harbin before the chemical slick arrived early Thursday, more than 10 days after it was released after explosions at a chemical plant in the upstream city of Jilin.

On Thursday, China warned Russia of the approach of the pollutants along the Songhua, which is known as the Amur in Russia's far east.

Harbin officials said they expected water supplies to be suspended for at least four days.

News of the suspension - which came Monday from the government, which did not cite the chemical slick as the cause until a day later - triggered panic buying of bottled water and soft drinks.

The Harbin city government said it would use new and old wells to supply drinking water as well as shipping water in tankers from neighbouring areas.

Benzene is a colourless petrochemical that is used as a solvent for making plastics and other products. It is carcinogenic if ingested.


dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Rescuers rush to China quake scene
      Nov 27, 2005
Rescue teams have rushed to a popular tourist spot in eastern China after a powerful earthquake left thousands of homes flattened and at least 13 people in the region dead.

Seven teams had been dispatched to the worst-hit areas to bring food, water, and tents to the thousands of people caught up in Saturday's 5.7 earthquake, said Cao Junliang, an aid spokesman from the tourist city of Jiujiang.

The official Xinhua news agency said Sunday that 13 people had died and more than 450 were injured by what was believed to be the strongest earthquake to strike the region in half a century.

Initially 14 people were thought to have died and some newspapers were saying Sunday that the toll was as high as 16.

Most of the dead were in and around the cities of Jiujiang and Ruichang in Jiangxi province, although there were also fatalities in Wuxue, a city in neighboring Hubei.

The quake, which could be felt in cities hundreds of kilometres (miles) apart, hit at 8:49 am (0049 GMT), causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

"We'd just finished our breakfast, when we heard a huge roar, like someone setting off really loud firecrackers," said a civil affairs official in Ruichang.

"Then the houses started shaking, and we just jumped outside," the official, surnamed Liu, told AFP.

In Jiujiang, thousands of people were seen crowding city streets some 12 hours later, rattled by a series of aftershocks and fearing another strong quake.

Some wrapped themselves in blankets, with the temperature at about 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).

In and around Ruichang, a total of 420,000 people had left their homes, apparently fearing the morning's earthquake might not be the last, according to the Xinhua website.

"Basically, everyone in Ruichang is right now out huddling in the street," said Liu, the civil affairs official. "I guess by nightfall we may need tents and blankets for them."

The International Red Cross had sent 500 tents to the disaster region, and would dispatch another 2,000 on Sunday, said.

The website showed photos reportedly taken in the large industrial city of Wuhan, more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the epicentre of the earthquake, showing cracked walls and toppled mannequins in shops.

"It felt like someone was yanking you violently," a Wuhan eyewitness told

The tremor could also be felt in the city of Changsha, the capital of Hunan province located 300 kilometers away, according to the China News Service.

Gao Jianguo, a leading earthquake expert, was quoted by as saying the affected area was not known as an active seismic area.

"The biggest earthquake in recent years in Jiangxi struck in 1987, measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale," he was quoted as saying. "This is the biggest earthquake since 1949" to hit the region.

The US Geological Survey said the quake occurred about 10 kilometers below the surface of the earth.

That makes it a so-called "shallow" earthquake, similar to the devastating quake that struck in Kashmir in early October, a category of tremor generally known to cause greater damage than deeper ones.

Jiujiang is home to half a million people and a traditional scenic spot that was praised by Tang dynasty poets more than a millennium ago.




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