Slide 1: Video Plays (30 seconds)Slide 2:Ten years on, the M7.9 2008 Great Sichuan Earthquake – also known as the Wenchuan Earthquake – still trembles clear in the minds of the 45.
5 million people in the 10 provinces and regions that were affected. The earthquake occurred on the 12th of May 2008, at 2:27 PM China Standard Time. Devastatingly, at least 4/5ths of properties were obliterated and “flattened” in the affected area, due to the intense strength of the magnitude and their poorly-built structures (Rafferty & Fletcher, 2018). Owing to the epicentre location’s extreme shallowness – only 19km below the earth – this caused significant damage to Sichuan and nearby provinces, with the most severe shaking felt by cities closest along the Longmen Shan fault, as furtherer away from the fault meant the surface waves would decrease in energy and lose its devastating power.The capital of Chengdu with a population of 11 million was only 80 kilometres away; the tremors could even be felt in Taiwan (Bryner, 2008).
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It was the largest earthquake to occur in China in three decades.Slide 3: Seismographs sourced from the Mt Soledad at station SOL in the United States, reveals that the surface waves were very strong and long – which lasted for more than 35 seconds as seen from a section of the seismograph. This allowed for more surface damage to occur to the roads and infrastructure. Slide 4: Records show that approximately 90,000 people were killed, while 18,000 are presumed dead.
The homeless were estimated at around 4.8 million, as a result of 5.36 million buildings collapsing and another 6 million homes damaged by the quake.
Poor infrastructure meant that more than 14,000 classrooms were damaged, and of which half collapsed entirely. China’s government purposefully produced a lowered estimated report of 5,335 dead school children; however, in reality, local media and state news agencies revealed that there were actually 9000 deaths. Parents were absolutely traumatised when they hurried to school buildings to collect their children. Why would the government hide such a fact?Slide 5:”Chinese officials said that the magnitude of the earthquake was to blame, but experts blamed poor design, substandard building work and lax enforcement of standards.” (Branigan, 2009).
Slide 6:How did this happen? What is the science behind this destructive force of nature? According to the Berkeley University of California, the movement of the plates is ultimately due to the constant convergence and collision between the Indian and Eurasian plates, for the past 50 million years. Their continuous convergence created the Himalayan mountains, which are under constant stress, generating more earthquakes in China. The cause of the 2008 earthquake was owing to the upward thrust fault breaking at the Longmen Shan Fault Zone, which is the boundary between the Tibetan Plateau and the Sichuan Basin. Slide 7:According to the USGS, “The geologic setting of the Sichuan Basin also worsens earthquake damage.
As seismic waves travels across the basin’s deep pile of sediments, the waves slow down, spending more time shaking the area, according to a Caltech report prepared after the 2008 earthquake. Their strength also increases, compounding damage from shaking, the report said.” (Oskin, 2013). Slide 8:In the Sichuan Earthquake, landslides, rock falls and surface faulting were the most threatening hazards to transportation and infrastructure. Landslides destroyed several railways, roads and buildings, as well as causing “quake-lakes” clogged rivers and threaten downstream villages. Consequently, floods were an additional threat – where the Tangjia Shan quake-lake required channels to stop rising waters.
Surface rupture along the fault was approximately 270 kilometres long and it went through many towns. Reverse thrust movement was present in the southwest, whereas the strike-slip was in the north. There were cases where vertical standing points of the surface were as high as 5.6 metres. Cases of aftershocks occurred 8 and 15 minutes after and produced M5.
8 and M6 quakes respectively, damaging even more of the weakened buildings. Slide 9:So how much did it cost the Chinese government? 1 trillion yuan (US$147billion) is the amount estimated to return people’s lives back to normal. This amount is equal to “the entire economic output of Sichuan last year and three times what Beijing spent rebuilding the capital in preparation for the Olympics” and is also “equivalent to a fifth of … China’s entire tax revenues for a single year” (Watts, 2008). Slide 10:The main policy introduced was ‘The “Wenchuan Earthquake Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction Act” (passed into law on June 4, 2008)’ (n.d., 2009). Their plan includes providing 3.9 million refugees housing, constructing schools and creating jobs for the 1 million people who lost their jobs.
“We will make the reconstruction of public service facilities such as schools and hospitals our priority … and turn them into extremely safe and solid structures that the public can feel reassured about,” stated a draft plan issued by the National Development and Reform Commission. Furthermore, an 8-year timeframe was allocated to restore people’s lifestyles.
However, according to the state media, the direct economic loss from the disaster itself totalled 843bn yuan and US$1.9 million, making it extremely hard to stay within the budget.In the 2013 M6.6 Sichuan earthquake, no buildings built from 2008 were destroyed. This may indicate how China has learnt their lesson and regulated their codes in their Act.Slide 11:”The scenes of death and destruction, as well as the massive recovery effort, needed to be prompted, for the first time in recent history, a request by China for international assistance.” This clearly highlights the extremity of the event they were facing and its true significance to China’s new plans as a country in crisis.
Even though this disaster was not the largest magnitude China ever encountered, the affected and damaged made it a stand-out. Slide 12: