A devastating earthquake has struck western Sichuan province. Early press reports are available here, and here; video from CCTV is here (Internet Explorer required). The earthquake’s epicenter is in Wenchuang county, which is part of the larger Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture.
The earthquake occurred at a very shallow depth, which accounts for the heavy damage, as well as people fleeing from swaying buildings in distant cities like Taipei, Shanghai, and Bangkok. To give some context for this scale: Chengdu’s distance from Shanghai is roughly similar to the distance of New York from Florida, Winnipeg from Quebec, Belfast from Rome.
Most of the damage and deaths appear to be located in Wenchuan county. Wenchung county is in the southern part of Aba (also known as Ngawa) prefecture. Wenchuan county has a population that is 46% Han, 34% Qiang, and 18% Tibetan. For Aba prefecture as a whole, 54% of the population is Tibetan, and 25% are Han. There were significant violent riots in Aba prefecture in March.
Premier Wen Jiabao is already on the ground in Sichuan province, and will direct the rescue operation personally. Road access has reportedly been cut off to the mountainous areas where the epicenter of the quake is; we won’t know full story for days.
UPDATE: Death count has crossed the 8000 boundary, and likely to climb higher. For those able to help, instructions for making donations to the Chinese Red Cross are listed below.
– Hong Kong Red Cross, (please select ‘China relief and development’)
For those who want to donate in foreign currency, you can also send money to the foreign currency account at the CITIC Bank branch below:
– Jet Li’s “One” Foundation (accepts credit cards via Paypal).