September 6, 2022
CHENGDU, BEIJING – President Xi Jinping called on Monday for all-out efforts to rescue people affected by the magnitude 6.8 earthquake in Luding county in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, and he emphasized that saving lives and minimizing casualties should be the primary task.
Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks in an instruction shortly after the earthquake occurred.
The temblor jolted the county, which is in the Ganzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture, at 12:52 pm on Monday.
By press time, the disaster had killed at least 46 people — 29 in Ganzi and 17 in neighboring Ya’an — and 16 were missing. It also injured more than 50 and damaged water, electricity, transportation and telecommunication facilities in the region.
Xi underlined the need to strengthen earthquake monitoring work to guard against secondary disasters. Efforts should be made to resettle people hit by the earthquake to enable them to get away from danger, he added.
While instructing the Ministry of Emergency Management to send a task force to Sichuan to help with the rescue operation, Xi also urged the People’s Liberation Army and the People’s Armed Police Force to cooperate with local governments in the rescue operation to use every means to ensure the safety of people’s lives and property.
Also on Monday, Premier Li Keqiang urged efforts to assess the damage caused by the disaster, properly resettle quake-hit residents and repair infrastructure destroyed by the earthquake as soon as possible.
Sun Guangjun, a 72-year-old resident of Luding, said: “Although the epicenter was over 40 kilometers from the Luding county seat, my apartment on the second floor of an old residential building in the county seat shook from south to north for seven or eight seconds. The shaking was more severe than what I felt during the Wenchuan earthquake (on May 12, 2008).”
“Very soon, all my neighbors fled outdoors,” said Sun, former chairman of the Luding county committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.The National Commission for Disaster Reduction and the Ministry of Emergency Management activated a Level IV emergency response to the earthquake. Under China’s four-tier emergency response system, Level I represents the most severe response.
The ministry said in a news release that it had sent a team headed by Min Yiren, chief of the China Earthquake Administration, to guide disaster relief work in Luding.
Wang Xiangxi, minister of emergency management, arrived at the ministry’s command center soon after the quake to coordinate disaster relief work, according to the release.
Officials from the Ganzi prefectural government said at a news conference on Monday that damage to roads, communications facilities and homes was being checked. The prefecture sent 635 rescue personnel, including armed police officers, firefighters, medical workers, communication professionals and power technicians, to carry out rescue and relief work, they said.
Five seconds after the earthquake, a real-time early warning system developed by the Institute of Care-Life in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, said that seismic waves would reach Kangding, the capital of Ganzi prefecture, seven seconds later, the city of Ya’an, adjacent to Luding, in 20 seconds, and Chengdu in 50 seconds.
Kangding is 53 km from the epicenter, while Ya’an is 99 km and Chengdu is 226 km away from it.
In many parts of China, the real-time early warning system operates on TV sets and mobile phones, which people can use in case of an earthquake.
The system sends warnings seconds after an earthquake is detected and can help save lives because the warnings are transmitted via radio waves, which are able to travel at 300,000 kilometers per second, while seismic shock waves travel at only 3 to 6 km/s, according to Chen Huizhong, a senior researcher at the China Earthquake Administration’s Institute of Geophysics.
Mountainous Sichuan is prone to earthquakes. The 2008 Wenchuan earthquake killed more than 69,000 people, with 17,923 others reported as missing.
Rescuers transfer injured and trapped residents from Mozigou village, Moxi town to safety in Luding county, Southwest China’s Sichuan province, Sept 5, 2022. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]