Tag Archives: Sichuan earthquake 2008

Yet another one

[20.08.14. The following extract is from an entry I posted on the 27th of May 2008, but because that was mostly about pinyin, I transferred this section to this post. The original entry is below.]

Some ill-informed observations with respect to Chengdu.

The current post-quake issue here is the risk posed by flooding when the lakes formed by landslides might rupture the earth damming them. It’s been reported that the army is trying to do something about this to prevent flooding from adding to a catastrophe that’s probably going to cost at least 80,000 lives.

I was having a look at my copy of 成都地图册 last night. There are a couple of maps at the front of the book which show the city and its surrounding districts, which include Dujiangyan. Although one’s a district map and the other’s a travel map, they both have detailed information about the river system. Basically, across this area, most of the waterways fan out from Dujiangyan. I don’t know whether any of the dams are up beyond the town, but if there are any and they were to burst, I suspect that the irrigation system across this part of Sichuan would absorb the water, and the risk of flooding here in Chengdu is fairly low. In other words, areas local to these bodies of water are in far greater danger.

Besides, the 锦江 would have to rise about three or four metres before it’d even start spilling over the banks locally, and the greater threat to Chengdu would be the loss of its water supply. At least here in town we’ve had none of the rain that was being forecast as a potential exacerbation, but that’s not to say it hasn’t been raining up in the hills.

Those earthquake rumours in full.

Class 6 banged on about the imminence of another quake this afternoon, to which I paid little attention. Anyway, we got out of class and heard that school was officially at an end because of some earthquake rumour. You’d think they might have the decency to close the school immediately after lunch, thus sparing me wasting my life on two classes who deserve not a minute of my time.

Anyway, the usual committee was sitting around at the gate to the compound when I got back here. I don’t have any details about the where or when of the quake. I wouldn’t be surprised if the answers were “some­where” and “some time”.

We did have a brief tremor yesterday, but the optimal word is “brevity”.

Meanwhile, I see Sharon Stone has annoyed the Chinese with some dumb remarks about the quake. From a rational perspective, she’s talking a bunch of bollocks. Earthquakes are just like other natural phenomena: they happen without the slightest regard for human affairs.


I was out at the time, I guess

The latest aftershock.

It wasn’t until I saw mail messages from my parents earlier this evening and checked the Beeb website (story) just before that I learnt there’d been another strong aftershock today. The article doesn’t say what time it hit, but if it happened this afternoon, I might’ve missed it because I was out and about. Not the first time that’s happened. Nor did I notice a sudden, inexplicable increase in the number of people outside.

Today’s trip took me back to the so-called European street (桐梓林北路 Tóngzǐlín Běilù). It may be posh and expensive, but the racket the tyres of cars make on the bricks that pave the road would be intolerable.

Once again, I saw several small clusters of tents remain set up on waste ground here and there. It’ll be two weeks tomorrow since the quake. It seems ages since it happened and yet when I think of the time – a mere two weeks – it seems all too recent, and perhaps I shouldn’t expect everyone to have returned home by now. Perhaps I should also not expect all the perceptible aftershocks to have decreased in strength or to have ceased altogether.

Time for trivia

It was a day much like any other.

I’ve been informed that we’ve had a couple more aftershocks in the past twenty-four hours, but I haven’t noticed a thing. There were some people outside the school gate today selling cuddly toys probably to make money to help the victims of the quake, and we’ve had the occasional convoy of ambulances passing by. Work is continuing in the affected area, but the more time that passes, the less likely it is for survivors to be found in the rubble. The official death toll has now passed 50,000, and could be up to 80,000 since nearly 30,000 are still missing.

For most of us, life seems to be back to normal. There are some, though, who are still camping out in tents. I wonder how long it’ll be before they pack them away and head home.

It was Quincy’s turn to take the IELTS class for their IELTS lesson today, which meant that I was saddled with the GE class. Class 6 were actually all right mainly because the biggest nuisances in the class were absent. The curious thing is that we’ve suddenly got kids who are applying to go overseas, although they’ve never said anything to us and most have never treated our classes as if they’re an opportunity to experience real, live native speaker English. One of the kids in Class 6 has disappeared, but I’m not sure it’s quake-related. It wouldn’t be the first time that no one’s informed us of the departure of one of our little darlings.

Class 5 was another matter. For some reason, they were late. Linda had come up to observe the classes and told them off in Chinese, after which they were reasonably well-behaved. Actually, I was very tempted to grab one of the dimmer bulbs in the class who was talking while Linda was talking, bang his head against the desk until one of them broke, and then claim it was earthquake damage. It makes a difference when you can admonish them in Chinese. I could do it in English, but you may as well breathe irately for all the good a verbal tongue lashing would achieve.

Quincy has just about had enough of the GE halves of our classes. As long-term readers will be aware, it gets to a point where enough is enough and you can no longer maintain the pretence that the little buggers are behaving and working satisfactorily. Compared with kids I’ve taught elsewhere in the programme, the ones here are slightly less stupid than they are lazy, although obviously there’s the usual range of inclinations. Or disinclinations.

We consoled ourselves afterwards with some DVD shopping, although there’s not really much worth getting at the moment. Quincy said he didn’t buy anything he had any great desire to watch, which is a milestone I passed long ago in China. I did grab a copy of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which I haven’t seen since it finished. It’ll be interesting to see whether it’s still watchable or whether it no longer has the same resonance it did for me back in the day. I’m going to have to wade through a lot of crap, though, because it wasn’t until the Dominion reared its ugly head that the series got into its stride.

And then it was off to Zoe’s for lunch, where I had a chicken burger with feta cheese. It was a fat burger out of which everything kept slipping. Unlike the other night when I was almost the only customer, the place was quite busy.

sadpowder Let’s finish this trivial post with some Chinglish. I spotted this sign when I was on my adventures on Sunday. Linda tells me that it’s meant to mean the food is so spicy that it makes you cry or, at least, tears stream from your eyes.

Score update

Mr Bamboo 1 – TV earthquake prediction 0.

I eventually heard from Linda that some expert had dismissed the TV prediction as a bunch of old rubbish. But even although the locals probably now know this, people were still turning up on the running track with tents early this evening and setting them up. Perhaps they’re now there not in case of earthquakes, but in case of more ridiculous rumours.

The school went so far as to buy us tents. Glen and Row are using one to­night to spare themselves from being dragged out of bed on the basis of an­other rumour and spending a sleepless night outside. Brian’s decided to take up residence in the other tent. Not sure why. Perhaps just for fun.

As I expected, there is school as usual tomorrow.

In vaguely unrelated news, Chris is apparently unable to get onto Spaces from Beijing unless he uses a proxy. That might have something to do with the three days of mourning, although I’m having no issues from here, being able to access GB with both Firefox and IE.

What set this off?

Another earthquake rumour, I guess.

At about 10.55pm, there was suddenly a lot of shouting outside and I saw quite a number of people passing by outside with blankets under their arms. There’s also quite a lot of traffic on the street as you can see in the first picture. The van with the flashing light eventually sounded its siren to make cars coming from the other direction back off and let it through. This level of activity is most unusual at this time of night.

rumour001 rumour002

In the second picture, you can see people gathering at the main gate of the school to take shelter.

I assume that some rumour of an imminent quake has gone round again, even although you cannot predict these things. I’m told that the last noticeable aftershock was this morning, possibly just before lunch when Glen and I were talking about the activity in the gym (which is above our office) causing us to think there might be a quake.

Anyway, I’ve just heard from Linda that an announcement about a big quake was made on TV this evening and people have been told to go outside.This seems somewhat irresponsible. When is the quake meant to strike? Er, some time. I wonder where this particular announcement came from. Was it an official source with credible scientific backing? Or did the wife’s brother call with some story he heard from a guy he met in a bar whose mate knows the sister of Sichuan’s chief seismologist’s charlady’s cousin who happened to hear that something might happen at some time in the future because things are known to have happened in the past?

Yes, there might be another aftershock, but that’s what happens after a major quake. And no, they don’t make an appointment before they come calling.

I’ve just had a call from Row. She says that she and Glen have been kicked out of their building, but she couldn’t get a reasonable answer about the time the quake was alleged going to be happening.

The next day. Unless I slept through it, nothing happened. School’s closed today because something might happen. Even if there is an after­shock, it doesn’t really prove anything, because it’s not unreasonable to as­sume such an event might occur. This announcement might’ve been made on TV every night for the past week, but unless we can predict with a reas­onable degree of accuracy when a quake is going to happen, the in­form­at­ion is useless.

[15.08.14. This is an excellent example of the consequence of rumours and a cred­ul­ous, unthinking population. Apparently, so Linda told me later, I made a name for my­self by staying in my flat instead of flocking outside with the sheep.]


Three minutes silence.

The news is that at 2.28 this afternoon there will be a period of three minutes silence to remember the victims of last week’s quake. Since that’ll be the same class we had at the time of the quake, I hope they’ll show the proper respect, although this week it’s my turn to take the IELTS half of the class. The flag at school is flying at half mast.

This morning, Class 16 was late because our students thought they’d still be down in their form room. They had concerns about being up in our classrooms, but I pointed out that they’d been given instructions on Friday about what to do in the event of a quake, and that the damage was slight. Mind you, this was Class 16, so apart from about five kids at the front of the class, the rest may as well not have bothered turning up.

Later. An announcement was made over the PA system at 2.28 this after­noon and we all stood in silence for three minutes as cars sounded their horns and sirens wailed in the background. One of the girls started crying and I could sense the emotional undercurrents in the class, especially afterwards.

Then the class gradually got really noisy in a good way. Perhaps it was some sort of release for them after the serious start to the lesson.[15.08.14. This was all the official remembrance anyone got. A year later, the an­ni­ver­sary passed in silence because the aftermath of the quake, the deaths of so many schoolchildren because of lax building standards, had turned this into another taboo topic.]

This evening. As I passed along the northern side of Tianfu Square late this afternoon, I saw that there were funeral rosettes around the flag pole and the shrubs were festooned with white flowers. There were banners in black and white strung across Renmin Nanlu just north of the intersection with Xin Guanghua Jie and at the southern end of Cheng Gen Nan Jie.

As I was heading home, another convoy of ambulances was heading south through the city centre.

Brief travels in north-west Chengdu

Mr Bamboo steps out.

It was a nice day today. That’s both good and bad. It helps the rescue efforts, but from other quakes I’ve read about, I believe it can pose a danger to trapped survivors who are at risk of dehydration. The more time that passes, the more likely it is that the rescuers will be recovering bodies.

My travels took me to the back streets of north-west Chengdu. The first thing I noticed was that not too far up the road a small area had been cord­oned off where tiles had come down, smashing into stone steps. For­tun­ate­ly, no one seems to have been outside that building (near a branch of the Bank of China) at the time the quake struck, the tiles having clearly hit the steps with some force. Nonetheless, that’s only the second instance of vis­ible external damage I’ve seen to a building in Chengdu. I did see one other building which might’ve been damaged by the quake, but it was hard to tell precisely whether it was recent.

Off the beaten track, I found that a lot of people are still camping outside in tents, which doesn’t surprise me after last night’s quake and thunder­storm. That must’ve continued to rattle people as it rattled me. I’m still hoping that other aftershocks will have the decency to wait until after class before they arrive because the last thing I need is a bunch of hysterical adolescents on my hands.

I see I managed to get a little sunburnt. So much for Sichuan dogs barking at the sun.

Finally, I should mention Steve’s China Blog (blogspot, thus blocked, of course) as another source of quake news from Chengdu.

More than just a window rattler

Another aftershock.

We got hit by another very noticeable aftershock at around 1.10am. According to kmm’s info from the USGS website, it was a 5.7 on the Richter Scale. It certainly set my nerves jangling quite a bit. I hate to think how the people in Wenchuan and the more badly affected areas must feel every time another tremor hits them.

And then we had a thunderstorm afterwards. However, I’d read that there was going to be more rain in the affected area and had wondered whether the front would pass over Chengdu. I wasn’t surprised that we did get a thunderstorm. Very sticky yesterday; just the sort of conditions to get Zeus brewing up a storm.

Almost immediately, I could here the clamour of voices outside, and the rumbles of thunder obviously weren’t helping the general mood.

After I turned my phone on this morning, I got a text message from Row who said that it woke her and Glen, and they ended up spending the night in the guardhouse. Since they’re on the tenth floor of their building, the movement would’ve been much more noticeable than it was here on the first floor.

I can’t help but note that aftershocks over the past couple of days seem to have been stronger than the earlier ones which followed the main quake.

Chris has a link to photos of a wedding party who were having their pictures taken outside a church in Wenchuan county when the quake struck. Apart from the east wall of the church, the rest was turned into a pile of rubble. Because the church is 100 years old, I wonder whether it survived the earthquake of 1933.

I note that the China Telecom building just up the street from me seems to be being used as a point for loading aid for the victims, and last night on my way back home, there was a line of yellow trucks (Ant Logistics I think) with red banners tied to the front waiting to turn and head north.

I saw the other night that people have donated ¥1.34 billion. That’s about £97 million. I note this paragraph from an article in The Independent:

Although Tangshan was China’s, and the modern world’s, worst earthquake, the Communist Party chose to keep the story quiet to avoid unrest. But the China that is bearing witness to the Sichuan quake is very different from that of the Cultural Revolution. A ban on reporting disasters in state media was lifted a couple of years ago, and there has been round-the-clock coverage of the quake on CCTV, China’s state-owned television channel, as well as other media.

No unrest, but rather the country rallying together to help the people of Sichuan.

Damage at school

Cracks in the classroom.

I went over to school this morning to check out our classrooms and see what the damage was. This is what greeted me when I opened the door of 514 where I’d been teaching on Monday.

quake001 quake002

It looks like plaster came down where an electrical cable had been em­bed­ded in the wall. Fortunately, I was at the back of the room at the time, al­though potentially nowhere was safe as the pictures from 515 show.

quake003 quake004

As you can see, the tiles which came down from the ceiling in 515 must’ve hit the edge of the desk with some force. Fortunately, a lot of kids were missing from class on Monday because, in spite of the edict to the con­trary, many were off practising for the Arts Festival, which has probably now been cancelled. By the time the tile came down, the kid sitting at the desk beside it had legged it.

Apart from the tiles, the only other damage to 515 was a couple of cracks on the left and right sides of the wall at the back of the room. 514 bore the brunt of the quake.

I grabbed this image from this article in The Guardian. I’m guessing that casualties in Chengdu probably mainly occurred in the surrounding district where construction standards and materials are probably less rigorously en­forced than they are inside the city. [15.08.14. The quality of the con­struc­t­ion of buildings became an issue afterwards, which was duly censored and, I believe, resulted in people being imprisoned.]


I also donated some money at school this morning.

The quake at Qingcheng

An eye witness account.

Qingcheng; Jianfu GongBarking at the Sun has an eye witness account (this is probably a dead link; the site got blocked years ago –JH.) of the quake up Qingcheng, which is a complex of Taoist  temples I visited last year along with Dujiangyan back in Oc­tober last year. We were asked whether we might want to be inter­viewed by CBS, but I think when you have an eye witness account from an area where the damage has been severe, my own experience is singularly unnewsworthy.

Meanwhile, as kmm (Who? –JH) says, it turns out that the water supply is fine. Apparently, it was believed that it had become contaminated from leaking chemical plants in Dujiangyan, but a text message was sent out (only saw it this morning) to say that the water supply was all right. The water pressure was low yesterday morning, but that might’ve been because everyone was filling bowls and buckets and whatever else with water. People were also buying up almost anything they could drink, although I note that the local Red Flag supermarket still had quite a few cans of 7-Up.

The other business which seems to have been doing quite well out of the quake is Liao’s Bon Bon Chicken and other shops like it. It sells pre-cooked chicken and other items which, I guess, you can throw in the pot and heat up. Many shops still remained shut yesterday, although what’s open and what isn’t is a bit random.

The primary school is open again today. Earlier, I could hear the children who are now on the receiving end of some announcement. School starts again tomorrow, but Linda said that the worst damage to the main building (still fairly superficial) was on the fourth and fifth floors.

There was another aftershock at about 4.30 this morning. It set off a brief commotion among the people who are still camping out at the main gate, and some dogs started barking as well.