On May 12, 2008 the ground began to shake in Sichuan Province. By the time it stopped, nearly 100,000 people had lost their lives.
Anyone who was in China at the time can say where they were when they heard about it. I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the time, attending a conference. I was in a meeting with a dozen or so others (all from China), when someone came in and told us there were reports of an earthquake in Sichuan. Obviously we had no idea of the magnitude, but we stopped and prayed.
As the days unfolded, the horror of it all became clear. The numbers were staggering:
- The quake measured 7.9 on the Richter scale.
- 4/5 of the buildings in the affected area were flattened.
- In some cases, entire villages and towns were destroyed.
- 5,300 children died, most of them in collapsed school buildings.
- 375,000 were injured from falling debris.
- 200 relief workers died in landslides.
- 130,000 soldiers and relief workers were deployed.
- The estimated cost of the quake in economic terms was $86 billion.
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the earthquake, the mainland-based site Sixth Tone has published a collection of pictures in a post titled, 100 Photos That Shook China: Memories of the Wenchuan Earthquake.
They are, quite simply, astounding. I encourage you to take the time to view them.
A Nation Mourns
Sichuan, Six Months Later
A Year Since the Ground Shook
A Sad Anniversary: The Wenchuan Earthquake
Image credit: Chris, via Flickr
Four years ago this afternoon, at 2:12pm, the ground began to shake underneath the mountains of western Sichuan Province. By the end of the day, entire cities were flattened, hillsides had fallen into rivers, 90,000 people were dead, and millions had lost loved ones.
I remember what I was doing when I heard the news. I was in a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and during a break someone said they were getting reports of an earthquake in Sichuan. At the time the death toll was still just in the dozens. Along with the rest of the world, we watched in horror and sadness as the death toll mounted…and mounted….and mounted.
Where were you and what were you doing when you first heard the news? Leave a comment and tell your story.
(image source: The Big Picture)
A Nation Mourns
The Chinese government today declared 3 days of national mourning for the victims of last week’s earthquake. The official death toll has now passed 30,000 and is expected to reach at least 50,000. Hundreds of thousands are injured. Five million are homeless. The observance began today with nearly a billion people stopping at 2:28pm to observe 3 minutes of silence. Sirens blared. Drivers stopped their cars and blared their horns. Everywhere people bowed their heads in honor and remembrance. I decided that the place I wanted to be at 2:28 was Tiananmen Square, the closest thing that an atheist state has to a sacred space. There were thousands who had the same idea. At about 2:20, the loudspeakers started directing people to face the flag, which is now flying at half-mast (something I’ve never seen in my 20+ years in China) and prepare for the moment of silence. At exactly 2:28pm the sirens went off, and the thousands of cars and buses on ChangAn Avenue came to a halt and started blaring their horns. It was both moving and eerie. I bowed my head and said a prayer for mercy and comfort for the afflicted. When the 3 minute observance was finished, people just stood around wondering what to do next. Wanting to demonstrate their solidarity with the victims, some students in the crowd started chanting ZHONGGUO JIAYOU (China! Go!). The crowds joined them and soon there were thousands marching around the square, waving flags and chanting. The folks in uniforms were definitely nervous, but did nothing to stop this spontaneous outpouring of patriotism. Below are some photos that I took at the square today.