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Southwest China Suffers from Major Earthquake
A major earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale slammed Sichuan Province of China at 2:28 p.m., on May 12, 2008. Tremors were reported in most cities of China including Beijing, and the quake was also felt as far away as Vietnam and Thailand. The epicenter of the quake was located at 31.0 degrees north latitude and 103.4 degrees east longitude, near Wenchuan County of Sichuan Province in southwest China.

The hardest hit area in the earthquake reached 65,000 square kilometers involving Aba, Dujiangyan, Mianyang, Beichuan, Guangyuan, Qingchuan, Shifang, Deyang, Pengyang, Guangyuan, Ya’an, Chengdu, etc.; and a population of about 20 million was seriously affected. Up to Jun. 10, China earthquake death toll rose to 69,146, and the casualty figures included 374,072 injured and 17,516 missing, according to the statistics publicized by the Information Office of the State Council. Current analyses of China Seismological Bureau (CSB) and other related survey institutions indicated that the earthquake occurred as the result of motion on a northeast striking reverse fault on the northwestern margin of the Sichuan Basin.

The rescue started at the first time shortly after the strong quake. President HU Jintao and Premier WEN Jiabao called for Chinese army and armed police to make full effort to assist disaster relief work and protect the safety of life and property of those affected. Overseas rescuers from Japan, Russia, Korea, Singapore, Germany, etc, have taken part in the relief aid. Hong Kong and Taiwan also sent their rescuers. Other countries including the US, Italy, Switzerland, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc., have provided financial or material supports. A great number of foreign governments and world organizations extended their condolences. Currently, the government relief fund for the earthquake-stricken areas has reached 13.7 billion yuan (RMB), while domestic and foreign donations have reached 44.4 billion yuan (RMB).

On May 19, 2008, exactly a week after the earthquake, China started a three-day national mourning. At 14:28, May 19, about 1.3 billion Chinese people stood in silent tribute for three minutes to lament the deceased in the earthquake. Flags were flying at half-mast across the country and all public entertainment was suspended during the three-day mourning period. The Olympic torch relay was also suspended. The silent tribute was the first of its kind for citizens killed in a natural disaster in China.

There were more than 15 million rooms totally damaged in the quake, and buildings in some towns and county seats in the worst-hit areas were almost leveled, leaving more than 11 million people homeless in the disaster. Many historic heritages at national or provincial level were damaged to different extents as well. Currently, efforts to search survivors are continuing in the quake-hit areas, while the focus of work has been gradually shifted to the resettlement of residents and post-quake reconstruction. Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development decided to build 1.5 million make-shift houses in the quake-hit Sichuan Province, which are expected to endure at least three years.

With the help from the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the planning and reconstruction of the quake-hit counties and towns have been carried out gradually. Many professionals and experts from different fields such as architecture, urban planning, environment, and public security have gone to the quake-hit areas to help people rebuild their hometown, among which are those from Urban Planning Society of China, Tsinghua University, Beijing Tsinghua Urban planning and Design Institute, China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, etc.

(For more detailed information about the earthquake and the issues related to planning and reconstruction after the earthquake, please refer to the next issue of China City Planning Review.)

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