By Caylan Ford
|May 14, 2008|
(Exclusive NTDTV Video)
As the death toll continues to climb in the wake of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked China's Sichuan province Monday, evidence has surfaced suggesting that Chinese officials were warned of the quake days earlier, yet suppressed the news.
The earthquake, China's deadliest in 30 years, struck on the afternoon of May 12th in Wenchuan county, Sichuan province, and could be felt as far away as Vietnam and Beijing.
As of Tuesday, the official death toll has exceeded 12,000, with over 18,000 more missing, many of them buried beneath the rubble of buildings and schools flattened in the quake.
On May 7th, five days before the deadly quake struck, a seismologist from Wuhan city posted a notice on the Internet predicting that an earthquake would strike on May 12th.
"According to information I have in hand, and exchanges that I have had with some foreign colleagues, I predict China will have an earthquake on May 12, 2008. The approximate location will be in the middle of Sichuan and Hubei, though all China may feel the tremors," read the notice.
The man went on to note that his predictions could not be announced publicly because it could cause "panic."
Even before the notice was posted, rumors were spreading in Sichuan province of a potential earthquake. Sichuan residents apparently made calls to the local Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Reduction office of the Provincial Seismological Bureau to verify whether or not the rumors were true.
The bureau denied the possibility of a quake, and on May 9th, a notice was published on the local government Web site dismissed the earthquake rumors. The notice read in part:
On May 3, the Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Reduction of the Seismological Bureau of Ahazhou received calls to inquire whether the rumors were true that Suomo Town, Maerkong County [Sichuan province] was going to have a major earthquake and that village officials advised villagers to stay outdoors.
After receiving the calls, the Bureau immediately asked the Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Reduction of the Seismological Bureau of Maerkong County to investigate the source of the rumor, to dispel it, to widely explain the actual situation, and to prevent the rumor from spreading further.
Three days later, after the earthquake struck, the notice was deleted. A screenshot of the notice can be seen on the Epoch Times Web site.
Some Chinese netizens have begun openly speculating that the regime deliberately concealed news of the earthquake in spite of evidence.
"Even when there were already signs indicating an earthquake, the Sichuan Seismological Bureau still suppressed and failed to report the information, completely disregarding people's lives," wrote one Internet user who claimed to have a relative working in the Provincial Seismological Bureau. "My uncle called me some time ago and told me about the earthquake warning signs, but the Bureau didn't allow them to release the information and stressed the need to ensure stability before the Olympics."
Memories of Tangshan
The earthquake in Sichuan is the deadliest to strike China since July, 1976, when a massive earthquake levelled the city of Tangshan, killing anywhere from 242,419 to upwards of 655,000 people.
Then, too, scientists had seen warning signs of an impending earthquake. Among them was Yang Youchen, a seismologist who says he made predictions of the earthquake in early 1976. Yang said he had predicted that a large earthquake would strike Tangshan in July or August of that year.
In May, just months before the earthquake, he presented his data to a conference organized by the China Earthquake Association, which failed to take seriously his warnings. He said he also spoke with the Tangshan Communist Party Secretary about the potential for an earthquake, but the city's deputy mayor ruled that it was too early to put the city on alert. Soon thereafter, Yang was sent to a reeducation class to reform his thinking.
Another geologist, Ma Xirong, alerted the China Earthquake Association (CEA) just weeks before the quake of strange fluctuations he'd noticed in the earth's electrical resistance readers. He similarly warned that a catastrophic earthquake could be on the way, but CEA officials dismissed his findings.
In light of repeated warnings from geological monitoring centers, some officials did take note, risking their political careers to help prepare people for an earthquake.
Wang Chengmin, a CEA expert, circulated warnings of an imminent earthquake near Tangshan and spoke with a small group of officials from surrounding areas about his concerns. One of them, Wang Chunqing, brought news back to the nearby county of Qinglong, where citizens were warned of the coming disaster. These efforts, by some estimates, may have saved as many as 400,000 lives.
Following the earthquake in Tangshan, China's leaders refused to acknowledge the scale of the disaster or accept international relief efforts, determined to preserve an image of China as a communist utopia.