July 22, 2013 – Earthquakes Hit Area of Northwestern China: A series of earthquakes shook mountainous areas of Gansu Province in western China on Monday morning, triggering landslides across a wide area. State news media initially said that 22 people had been confirmed dead and that more casualties were still being counted. Pictured above, people stood outside their homes after an earthquake in Gansu Province on Monday.
The official Xinhua news agency attributed the deaths to an earthquake that the Gansu Provincial Seismological Bureau had estimated at a magnitude of 6.6. The United States Geological Survey listed three fairly strong earthquakes in Gansu Province on Monday morning, with magnitudes of 5.9, 5.6 and 4.7.
Xinhua reported that most of the townships in Minxian county in Gansu Province had suffered damage from the quake.
The China Earthquake Administration said that it was sending disaster-relief teams to the area. Xinhua reported that the People’s Armed Police had already sent 500 people to the area, including 120 rescue workers, and that military units in the area were being prepared to help in relief work.
Communications were disrupted across a wide area, and mudslides were a continuing problem even after the initial earthquakes. The weather service in nearby Lanzhou, the provincial capital, also warned of extremely heavy rainstorms on Monday.
Initial estimates for the death tolls for earthquakes in western China have often tended to be far less than the final total, because of the difficulty in reaching communities that may initially be cut off if the temblor triggers rock slides that block roads.
The 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province, south of Gansu, was initially reported as having killed a half-dozen people, but the final figure reached 87,000. That earthquake was far more powerful, however, with a magnitude of 7.9, indicating that the Sichuan earthquake had 100 times the force of the initial American estimate for the most powerful of the three earthquakes on Monday.
One of the biggest issues after the 2008 earthquake lay in the substandard construction of many schools and other buildings that collapsed; there were allegations that developers had cut corners in collusion with local officials. Gansu Province is one of the poorest in China, with many older buildings of simple construction. (Credits – By KEITH BRADSHER for the NYT).
The Master of Disaster