Friday, May 30, 2008

Earthquake Update

Today was a day back to class for the students: It is hard to believe that they will be taking their final exam tomorrow and the lectures will be over. The time in China has been going very quickly. As part of the class, they will still need to do a project that they will hand in by the end of June.

Since there is not much to say about what we’ve been doing, I thought I would comment on the news reports regarding the earthquake and the recovery efforts. The area is still experiencing aftershocks, with a 6.4 magnitude aftershock on Sunday and a couple of smaller aftershocks later in the week.

The big concerns being reported on the news are the “quake lakes” and the threat of disease. The landslides triggered by the earthquake have blocked rivers and now have lakes behind them. They are dealing with over 30 such lakes throughout Sichuan Province. The fear is that the landslide barriers will fail and cause massive flooding downriver. The army has mobilized using very large helicopters to move in earth moving equipment to create channels for a controlled release of the water. However, bad weather has been preventing fuel deliveries to the location and they have army soldiers standing by in order to deliver fuel to the work areas by foot. Evacuation plans have been made for the affected areas and drills have been held. Some of the lakes are raising at a rate of 2 to 4 meters per day and will overtop the barriers within about 1 week. These landslides have also changed the landscape of the region significantly. Mountains that used to be tree-covered, are now slopes of dirt.

Disease prevention is also a major focus of the effort. Epidemic prevention is on the minds of all the government leaders. They are disinfecting many of the destroyed building using hand sprayers.

Housing problems including both temporary and permanent are also being considered. Tent production has been stepped up in order to provide the needed tents and other temporary housing is being built. The army has over 100,000 in the area to help with the housing issues.

The statistics regarding the devastation are simply beyond comprehension. As of today, there have been 68516 fatalities and 365399 people injured; 19305 are still missing. 15 million people have been evacuated and it is estimated that over 45 million people have been affected. Since 12 May there have been 219 tremors less than 3.9 magnitude.

Help has been pouring in from all over the world. So far over 37.3 billion yuan has been pledged (over US$5 billion). The news cast just reported that even the monks at a Buddhist temple in Chengdu have donated money in addition to praying for the victims. I am sure that we are all thinking of the many people in the Sichuan Province that are affected. While not of the best quality, I include pictures taken off the reports on the TV news including one of the quake lakes, the army building houses, and the monks praying for the victims.

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