Authors: Basile Theaud, Christine Yu
The “Great Sichuan earthquake”, also known as “Wenchuan earthquake”, happened on 12th May 2008 in the #Sichuan province. The #magnitude of the earthquake was 8.0 and over 69,000 people lost their lives, the deadliest #earthquake in China since 1976 (242,000 dead) and the strongest since 1950 (magnitude 8.6). People felt the earthquake also in #Beijing and Shanghai, from more than 1,500 km away. Within 72 hours, there were 64 to 104 major aftershocks with magnitude from 4 to 6.
At the time, the 2008 #Olympics were being held in Beijing and, fortunately, none of the venues were damaged. However, a major disaster occurred when a train carrying #petrol caused a fire and a leakage of liquid ammonia from two #chemical plants buried hundreds of people. The nightmare lasted about 2 minutes but caused 400,000 injured people and 4.8 million homeless. Almost 80% of the surrounding buildings were #destroyed. The government calculated a total damage of $150 billion, spent over the next three years to rebuild the ravaged areas.
Other major damages included the #blackout in communications in the Sichuan area, as mobile and terrestrial #telecommunications were cut, along with the internet. It would take over 3 months to fully restore the telecommunications system in the region.
The remarkability of the natural #disaster also lies in its global effects; the price of copper increased due to speculation that production in Southwestern China had been affected by the earthquake. The price of oil dropped, with fears that the demand from China would decrease. The trading of companies based in Southwestern China was #suspended on both the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges.
China’s increased investment in disaster #preparedness means a similar tragedy is unlikely. A major cause of death in 2008 was the collapse of older buildings. The majority of schools in earthquake prone areas have been retrofitted or #rebuilt, and the populations in these areas educated about the risks and hazards relating to earthquakes.