Wednesday, May 14, 2008

China Earthquake

The earthquake (magnitude 7.8) that happened on Monday in China has caused a lot of chaos in the country. I was in Shanghai at the time, a good distance away from the epicenter. Even so, there were parts of the city that felt the shocks of the earthquake.

A friend of mine is presently working in Chongqing, in Sichuan. His story was pretty exciting. His office is on the 27th floor, and was evacuated. While they were walking down the stairs, it felt as if the building were spinning and swaying, making it very difficult to make one's way down. Everyone cleared out of the building safely, thanks especially to various evacuation drills that have been held there over time. The thing was that when everyone got downstairs, they only knew to stay in open areas and not go back to either work or home, particularly if the buildings were high-rises. The parks were crowded all afternoon and into the late night, with many choosing to spend the night outdoors rather than be at home in their skyscraping beds when the aftershocks began.

Another friend of mine is stationed in Xi'an, also much nearer the epicenter than Shanghai is. She is an American and does not speak much Chinese, but one of her students took good care of her, helping her make her way home through the chaotic streets of the city. She was fine, as was everyone in her campus.

Not all of the country has been so fortunate. Much of the area nearer to Chengdu, further west in Sichuan than Chongqing is, and nearer to the center of the earthquake's activity, is in real suffering. Mianyang and Mianzhu are two towns I've read/heard about having a good deal of trouble and loss of life as a result of the earthquake. There are "aid drops" going on in the region, trying to get food and warm clothing to the people there in need of it. The weather has turned quite bad, with rain and cool temperatures. Many of these areas are nestled high in lofty mountains, and are not easily accessible even in the best of conditions. With the rains starting, it looks like getting aid into the area might get more and more difficult.

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