Sichuan Earthquake (2008) as an example of LEDC dealing with Seismicity

Sichuan Earthquake – China 2008

Location and nature of the natural hazard:

  • Earthquake occurred on the 12 May 2008 shortly before the Beijing Olympic Games.
  • Earthquake was magnitude 7.9 on the Richter Scale and had a focus 19km beneath the surface
  • The epicentre was 92km northwest of the major city of Chengdu.
  • Strong aftershocks continued to effect th area for months after incluing some of over magnitude 6. (Compare: Aftershocks stronger here than in Northridge)
  • Occurred over the longmenshan fault zone. The Indo Australian Plate and the Eurasian plate coming together in a destructive boundary.
  • Earthquake occurred at 2.30pm when students were in school and workers were in work.
  • Some Scientists suggest that the pressure from the Zingpu Dam which had 315 million tonnes of water in it led to a greater magnitude of earthquake.

Effects (Social, Economic, Environmental, Political):

  • 11 Million people lived in areas affected by the event. Of these 70,000 people died, more than 18,000 were listed as missing more than 375,000 were injured and 5 million were made homeless
  • 70 Man Made dams were damaged or destroyed. Natural dams also formed such as the one on the Jian River that threatened thousands downstream(Comparable).
  • Landslides led to the formation of 30 barrier lakes, also led to the destruction of telephone lines, phone masts and roads.
  • Helicopters that were used to distribute aid couldn’t get to the required locations due to heavy rain which followed the earthquake.
  • $146bn cost to rebuild the areas destroyed
  • Felt as far away as Taiwan and Bangladesh.


Relief (Short Term Mangement):

  • This earthquake was not predicted however the area is prone to earthquakes
  • Chinese Government responded immediately to the Sichuan Earthquake and sent in 80,000 troops to coordinate rescue efforts, some via parachute.
  • Secondary threats emerged including growing barrier dams, soliders used explosives to prevent flooding.
  • 250,000 people evacuate from devastated town of Beichuan and surrounding areas before dam on the Jian River was blown up allowing considerable amounts of water to travel through and destroy the area

Reconstruction (Longer-term rebuilding)

  • Most buildings were not built to withstand this magnitude of earthquake and these were most likely to collapse. When rebuilding changes were made to the building code to protect occupants especially communal buildings like schools. Older building in earthquake prone areas were retrofitted.
  • In response to urgent calls for aid by the end of June 2008 the Chinese government had allocated $13.6bn to a relief fund while domestic and foriegn donations yielded $8.8bn.
  • Beichuan was rebuilt 20 miles from previous location
  • Farms destroyed (very agricultural area) with this sector providing significant employment leading to lost livelihoods.