Sichuan quake: Chinese government was warned of disaster; researcher “shared the findings with many counterparts in Beijing and Sichuan but only a few people paid any attention”

Sichuan quake: Chinese government was warned of disaster

One of China’s leading seismologists warned that a devastating earthquake would strike the exact area where more than 200 people have now lost their lives.

By Malcolm Moore, Beijing

3:27PM BST 22 Apr 2013

Professor Chen Yuntai, twice president of China’s Seismological Society, warned in the wake of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake that the same fault line was likely to rupture again in the coming years. The warning was reported to China’s top leaders in Reference News, a daily internal briefing for the Communist party, but was not acted upon. “We collected the data from the Wenchuan earthquake and we calculated that there would be another big quake around 60 miles to the south west, which is Baoxing county,” he said.

“We gave a seminar organised by the Chinese Academy of Sciences 10 days after the Wenchuan earthquake and a reporter for Xinhua (the state news agency) wrote it up for the Politburo. “I shared the findings with many counterparts in Beijing and Sichuan but only a few people paid any attention,” he said. “I was worried because I was sure that there would be this aftershock”.Prof Chen, 72, who is also the honorary dean of Peking university’s School of Earth and Space Sciences, said he had even calculated that the magnitude would be between 6.9 and 7.3.

The earthquake on Saturday morning in Sichuan was magnitude 7, and occurred almost exactly five years after the Wenchuan quake.

“We knew it would happen, but we did not know exactly when,” said Prof Chen. He explained that three quarters of the near 300-mile long Longmenshan fault line had ruptured in 2008, but that pressure had built up under the remaining 60 miles underneath Baoxing.

Yang Yong, an independent geologist who is currently in the disaster zone said he had also predicted a looming disaster.

“The south west part of the fault had a lot of energy accumulating underneath it. There is the intersection of many different zones. I thought that after the Wenchuan earthquake another quake would happen to the south in a couple of years,” he said.

Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldier, carries survivor as he runs down stretch of road to Lingguan township

More than 2,200 aftershocks in the wake of the latest quake were still panicking survivors and hampering rescue efforts in the mountainous area on Monday.

Four of the aftershocks have had a magnitude of 5 to 5.9 according to the local seismological bureau.

The near constant seismic activity has caused further landslides and slowed rescuers battling along narrow mountain roads to reach the worst-affected villages.

“Residents and rescuers must be highly alert to the dangers of mudslides, especially after rain,” said Fan Xiao, chief engineer at the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau in Chengdu. “There will be lots of rain in the coming months.”

By Monday, the death toll from the earthquake had reached 213, including 25 missing victims. More than 11,000 people were injured, 13,000 homes were destroyed and more than 220,000 people have been evacuated from the region, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

“The logistics of getting the relief supplies through have been quite challenging and people have had a very difficult time waiting for the most basic supplies,” said Francis Markus, a spokesman for the International Red Cross.

“We hope the weather does not make things worse and that the aftershocks will subside as quickly as possible.

“It is going to be a protracted difficult time for people, both physically and psychologically because this region has been struck twice, so in a way it is kind of a double blow,” he added.

The art of earthquake prediction remains controversial, but last October six Italian scientists and an ex-government official were found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison for failing to predict an earthquake in L’Aquila in 2009.

Seismologists have also predicted for years that a huge earthquake along the San Andreas Fault will destroy large swathes of California.

However Prof Chen said that now the Longmenshan fault has released its energy, Sichuan is unlikely to suffer a further quake in the medium term.

“In the future, there is no guarantee that there will not be a big earthquake in Sichuan again, but the possibility has shrunk,” he said.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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