This Google Earth map shows locations of 7 different quakes that have been measured in western Sichuan province, in the mountainous areas that form the eastern boundary of the Tibetan plateau. #1 is the 7.9 magnitude quake that struck Wenchuan County on Monday at 2:28 pm. The quakes were northwest of Chengdu (population 10 million) and caused damage and deaths in Chongqing (lower right, population about 30 million).
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
[AP] CHENGDU, China – A powerful earthquake toppled buildings, schools and chemical plants Monday in central China, killing about 10,000 people and trapping untold numbers in mounds of concrete, steel and earth in the country’s worst quake in three decades.
The 7.9-magnitude quake devastated a region of small cities and towns set amid steep hills north of Sichuan‘s provincial capital of Chengdu. Striking in midafternoon, it emptied office buildings across the country in Beijing and could be felt as far away as Vietnam.
As Tuesday dawned, rescuers were frantically searching for more survivors, but rain was compounding the difficulty. Premier Wen Jiabao, who flew to the region, said rain was forecast for the next several days.
The government was pouring in troops to aid in the disaster recovery. Xinhua said 16,000 were in the area and 34,000 more were en route.
I left the apartment this morning at 7:15, not knowing if there would be classes today or not. It was raining and cool on The Morning After. People were still camped out on grassy areas beside the river, afraid that their homes would be shaken by more tremors.
The school cafeteria looked like an emergency camp, filled with tired students with bedrolls or straw mats who had spent the night outside their dorms. A group stood transfixed before a TV, watching the horrible quake aftermath on the news. I grabbed a long piece of fried bread and a hard-boiled egg and continued to the classroom building. Students under umbrellas walked along the campus streets.
A large group of students waited outside Classroom Building 2, where I teach. Security staff inside weren’t allowing any entry, but the students were pleading to be allowed to go back in to collect their belongings, money, ID cards, and cell phones hastily left behind when the shaking started yesterday. I recognized some of my students, who pleaded with me to go inside with them, since they’d been told they could only enter accompanied by a teacher.
After several minutes of negotiations, small groups were allowed in the door, I among them, and escorted to upper floors by a blue-uniformed guard. On the way to the stairs a huge chunk of plaster from the wall lay on the floor. On a stairway landing a backpack, set of keys, and a pen had been dropped in panic by a fleeing student. In several classrooms chunks of ceiling tiles littered the floor and desk tops, and more fallen plaster partially blocked some stairs. A computer tower had slid partway out from its desk. A long straw broom lay futilely among chunks of fallen plaster and an overturned trash can.
I spent about 30 minutes going with various student groups to their classrooms; on their way out they were questioned by guards and made to sign their names stating that they were only removing their own belongings.
Under the covered porch of another building, students lay on the floor where they had slept the night before. I ran into another student I know who said that there had been about 25 deaths in Chengdu from the earthquake.
In the main administration building hundreds of students, and some teachers, sprawled on the floor. I stopped at the Foreign Office to ask if everyone had come through the trauma all right. As I headed back home, I passed a long stretch of police tape in front of the class building that had a crack all the way down its side.
I actually took the bus to my private teaching job, unsure whether it would happen, only to be met by a closed building and a warning that “You can’t enter.” I returned home, made some noodles for lunch, and resigned myself to the fact that classes probably won’t resume until next week. By that time, though, I’ll be in Beijing for the English language debate competition; it will be an unintended long break for me. I’ve communicated with family and friends in the U.S., assuring them that, at least right here, everything is all right.
Update: Wednesday 05-14-08:
Many businesses in Chengdu are still closed. Some students at UESTC went back to their dorm rooms, but will still sleep outside in small tent cities or on the floors of school buildings, fearful of damage from more aftershocks. The rain has stopped – it was hampering rescue efforts in hard-hit areas – and the day may turn sunny later.
[Associated Press] Seismologists said the quake was on a level the region sees once every 50 to 100 years. The region’s last strong quake was in 1933, when a magnitude 7.5 quake killed more than 9,300 people. Monday’s quake was powered up the pent-up stress, experts said.