Monday, May 12, 2008

Earthquake in China - How it's different than in the past

Recently, it seems as though I just keep writing about natural disasters. Cyclones and massive flooding in Myanmar, tornadoes in the Midwestern USA, and now the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in central China.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake is no laughing matter. Once when I was in college we had a minor earthquake - I think it was under a magnitude of 3.0, but it was still unsettling. I can't imagine what such a large earthquake would feel like. Reports from people 150 kilometers from the epicenter say it felt like a rolling and shaking, but that sounds too tame. "Rolling and shaking" is what disco dancers used to do; an earthquake has terrible destructive power that far outweighs the impact of the groovy fashions and moves of the disco era.

Over 5,000 people are reported dead in just one county in central China, with more deaths expected to be reported as this area of China has over 78 million residents (Source: BBC). The quake struck at around 2:30 PM, when kids were still in school and people were still at work. Apparently 900 children are trapped in their collapsed school. Can you imagine anything so terrifying as being trapped?

The only positive thing about this event is the Chinese government's reaction. In the past, it shut down access and tried desperately to control the flow of information within China and to the rest of the world. I suppose the government wanted to make sure a positive spin was put on the event, or more specifically, on their reaction to the event.

However, this time it's different. The Chinese government is very quickly disseminating information, and reacting to the event. The media (well, the BBC, which is where I first heard of the quake) is taken aback, in a good way, at the ease with which information has come forth. With information comes the ability to help. This contrasts starkly with Myanmar's response to the cyclones, though aid is slowly trickling in.

I think the reason China is being more forthright about the earthquake is the upcoming Olympics in Beijing. The country is already under a microscope for the way it's handling the Tibet issue. The last thing they need is further condemnation for their mishandling of a natural disaster. So, if the world wanted to influence Chinese politics by giving them the Olympic hosting responsibilities, I would say they have succeeded... at least in this small way.

If you would like to help victims of the earthquake in China, consider the following organizations:
  • Red Cross - Provides disaster relief
  • Mercy Corps - Works within "disasters, conflicts, chronic poverty and instability to unleash the potential of people who can win against nearly impossible odds"
  • China Tomorrow Education Foundation - Builds schools in rural China to ensure education for all
  • Alpha Communities - Works with people and communities to realize potential, initiate change, and create opportunities in rural China and Mongolia
Related Posts: Chinese Earthquake: How to help; Global Volunteering; Myanmar Cyclones and What you can do to help; Tornadoes, Cyclones, and Disaster Relief, Oh My! ; An Olympic Debate

Photo courtesy of and Getty Images.


Casey said...

Additional photos of the Chinese earthquake can be found at this website:

Chinese Earthquake Photos

Warning - some of the photos contain dead bodies. :-(

Mercy Corps said...

I'm writing today from Mercy Corps. We wanted thank the readers of this blog for your donations to the relief efforts in China.

As of today, we are mounting an emergency response for survivors through its local partner China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA). Together, we are procuring food, water, clothing and shelter supplies for affected families. We have deployed two experienced staff members from our Beijing office to help coordinate these efforts.

If you'd like more information about how we are responding, please visit:

Again, we thank you for your support of our efforts.

shine said...

I wish I can do something as a Chinese. I wish I can go back, and go to that area and build homes for those people lost their home. I want to use my hands to help them. I know money halpes them as well, but I do not feel I do enough, I really want to go there and help them physically. I am wondering anyone know any groups organize go to China and volunteer and bring money and food for those Chinese people lost their homes. if you do, please email me @, thansk, I will really appreciate, otherwise,I want to try to organize a volunteer group to go to China and help them. So anyone interest, email me and we can plan to volunteer them for details.

Casey said...

@Shine - Check out the comments on this blog entry:
Chinese Earthquake - How to Help

I list several volunteer opportunities. I think it would be great if you organized your own trip, though! Make sure you're coordinating with local officials so you're not going in vain.