Archive for May, 2008

Wenchuan Earthquake

May 12, 2008

Nature has not been good to Wenchuan: Last year there were some rock slides and now it was hit by the strongest earth quake that has hit China for more than 30 years. According to Xinhua the epicenter was some 90 kilometers northwest of Chengdu, Sichuan’s province capital, and Chinese news agency Xinhua has called the natural disaster “汶川地震” (Wenchuan earth quake).

Last year on my way from Jiuzhaigou to Chengdu I passed Wenchuan and Dujiangyan, those two cities largely effected by the quake. As a matter of fact, when taking the 12 hour bus ride from Jiuzhaigou to the provincial capital, I met a student from Wenchuan who was just coming back from Jiuzhai to Wenchuan as her college was closed before because it had been hit by a landslide. For some pictures taken after the quake, see here.

Street in northern Sichuan
Mountain roads making it difficult for rescue teams to enter the villages, soldiers are reported to advance on foot only.

I have just talked with a Chinese friend from Chengdu (who is studying in Germany now) and she said that it was hard to get a hold of their family since the cell phone network broke down due to too many phone calls. While everyone of her family in Chengdu was fine, she told me that nobody had heard from their relatives in Wenchuan yet. The problem the rescue teams are facing now are quite big: Many roads in this mountain area have been destroyed by falling rocks or landslides – and there is also heavy rain in some parts so that helicopters could not even check out the situation. And while there is no way in for the rescue teams – there is no way out of the area for those who live in the small villages. Because houses there often are self-made, they are not very solid and many could have elapsed during the quake.

A problem in Sichuan now might be that there are many people without housing, either because their homes were destroyed or because people are afraid of going back into their homes. On the pictures above one can see homeless people gathering on the streets or setting up temporary tents.

The quake was even perceivable in Beijing, some one thousand kilometers away. A friend of mine was in a job interview in the 15th floor of a high-rise during the quake and that that the building started shaking.