Deadly earthquake(s) Yunnan, China - Heaviest rains in recent history are adding to the misery

Earthquake overview : Tens of people have been killed and hundreds injured during a series of moderate earthquakes in Yunnan, China
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Most recent information on top – Start of the article at the bottom

2012-10-04 09:08 UTC

18 school children buried by Yunnan landslide
Nineteen people, including 18 students who followed classes during a China festival week to make up for lost days during the Yunnan earthquake who killed 81 people, were buried in a landslide that occurred on Thursday in southwest China's Yunnan Province, local authorities said. The accident happened around 8:00 a.m. in the village of Zhenhe, located in Yiliang County of Zhaotong City, the county government said.The landslide, estimated to be around 10,000 cubic meters, engulfed a primary school building, trapping 18 students, the government said. Read more ...

Update 09:20 UTC

- People are fleeing their villages for a safer area when heavy rains are raging over Yunnan. writes : A heavy downpour has hit southwest China's earthquake-hit county of Yiliang early Tuesday morning, triggering floods to cut off roads and force thousands to evacuate. The county's headquarter of flood control and drought relief said the rainfall is the largest in local meteorological history. It has damaged the county's drinking water supply pipeline and an alternative water source. The flood is set to delay the post-quake relief work as all roads linking the county with elsewhere have been cut off.

Image courtesy and copyright

CCTV journalist at work in Yunnan's Jiliang area are witnessing the heavy rains which are generating mudslides. We truly feel sorry for all these earthquake victims who have to find refuge in tented camps with this kind of weather. We expect further video later today and will bring it to you when we notice it.

Update 08:22 UTC
New dangerous earthquakes in Yunnan, China
2 moderate but nevertheless dangerous earthquakes occurred in another part of Yunnan. As the main reason for the damage from lastweek's earthquakes was landslides, it will certainly also be the case here.
11km (7mi) ESE of Dianyang, China. USGS reports a depth of 22 km where CENC reports a depth of 10 km
Early reports are talking about 2 people injured. We are following up the aftermath of these new shakes and will report accordingly.
Update : The number of injured people has increased to 6

Update Sept. 11 - 03:45 UTC
The earthquakes in Yiliang county have caused 257 schools to become damaged containing 98,000 students.

Direct economic losses of up to 582.26 million yuan or around 90 million USD have occurred with schools needing at least 270 million yuan of funds.

Update 16:26 UTC
More than 200,000 children are estimated to have been affected by a 5.7 magnitude earthquake in the South - Western provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou in China.
“Children who have survived this will be frightened and exhausted. We are especially worried about children who may have been separated from their parents during the earthquake, as more aftershocks are expected to hit the area,” said Pia MacRae, country director for Save the Children in China.
Save the Children has projects in the quake-hit area. Our field office team in Kunming is assessing whether to launch a response.”
Save the Children has been working in China for nearly 25 years, responding to over 15 disasters in that time, such as the 2010 Yushu earthquake and 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Update 09/09 - 08:34 UTC
- 293 aftershocks have rattled to damaged area so far
- The direct economic loss estimate from China has hit 3.704 billion CNY or 587 million USD. This is equivalent to 10% of the GDP of the Zhaotong City Prefecture.
- 1.05 billion CNY has been alloted to recovery and relief in Yunnan. (166 million USD)
- The death toll has reduced again after double counting to 81. Injuries are up to 820. 744000 people have been affected.
(彝良县洛泽河镇  - 62 people、角奎镇 - 11 people、龙街乡 - 3 people、荞山乡 - 2 people、龙安乡 - 1 person,昭阳区北闸镇 - 1 person、青岗岭乡 - 1 person.
-  In Yunnan, 6650 rooms have been destroyed and over 122000 rooms damaged with 201000 people relocated while emergency forces work.
- In Guizhou, 3 rooms collapsed and 100 rooms have been severely damaged with 380 people relocated.
- Official media are trying to use this disaster as "the best education tool" to be prepared for earthquakes
- Rumors are again increasing misery levels as mouth to mouth information tells them about new earthquakes to arrive soon. Over and over again we have to explain that the strength and timing of earthquakes cannot be fore-casted. All people can do it being prepared to withstand another one. Very rare cases are generating aftershocks that are equal or even stronger than the previous mainshock, but very few chance still means that the chance exists. NEVER believe prophets and continue listening to skilled science people.
- The government will pay pensions as national standard requires it
- Power supply, water distribution and traffic are more or less restored
- Education is still a problem as a lot of school buildings have been damaged and are unfit to receive students. However, the authorities are convinced that some classes can be restarted on Monday
- 34 temporary shelters have been installed to host people with collapsed or unsafe houses
- 43 bodies have been returned to the relatives for burial. The names of these people will be published soon.

SAR people (Search and Rescue) still use sniffer dogs - image courtesy and copyright

Overview Update 13:15 UTC
- Many roads are still blocked because of landslides
- Misery often comes not alone as bad rainy weather is expected for the next 3 days. This will seriously hamper the relief efforts
- After the quake, local authorities have built several temporary shelters at the county square and the county hospital. Relief materials are also arriving. Rescue teams are working around the clock to reach survivors.
- Troops are reporting that rocks are still tumbling down the slopes and mountains which makes repair work very dangerous.
- A lot of Chinese citizens have started to donate money to the Chinese Red Cross. The fund will help to cover urgent needs and medium term aid.
- The death toll has luckily not increased since our morning update
- Damage has also been reported to hydro-electrical installations
- A lot of people have spend the night in tents partly due to their damaged houses and partly because they feel unsafe in their houses as aftershocks are continuing and as people fear another strong earthquake
- Rescue workers are literally moving from door to door to make sure that all damage is reported
- A baby was born in a rescue tent ! A lot of misery and at the same time a sign of hope !
- the United Nations, by means of OCHA, has offered China to assist where they can be helpful

Update 07:11 UTC
- The direct economic loss estimate from China has hit 3.5 billion CNY or 551 million USD.
- This is equivalent to 10% of the GDP of the Zhaotong City Prefecture.
- The death toll has unfortunately risen to 89. Injuries are up to 795. 744000 people have been affected.

Update 21:39 UTC
- We are sad to report that the death toll increased further to 80 people
- The new number of fatalities makes today's earthquake the second deadliest in 2012. Coincidence or not, both these earthquakes were double earthquakes.

Update 16:34 UTC
- More than 1000 military personnel from the Chengdu Military region have been sent to the earthquake area
- Especially the farming community is extremely hard hit by the earthquake
- The Red Cross has started a donation campaign to support the relief efforts
- The city of Chongqing (+30 million inhabitants) has offered to help. Chongqing is approx. 300 km from the epicenter.
- most of the damage has been caused by landslides and not by direct shaking (limited magnitude)
- As the night has fallen in the disaster area, we do not expect to receive as many details as during daylight. The death toll still stands at 64 and we truly hope that it will stop here
- Below one of the latest TV coverages  with new footage of the earthquake

Update 14:08 UTC
- It is horrifying for us to add always more and more fatalities in our updates.  Now from 63 to 64, another family devastated by losing someone.
- The Yunnan earthquake is currently the 4th deadliest earthquake of 2012

Image courtesy and copyright ChinaNews - Click on this picture to watch more images from ChinaNews

Image courtesy and copyright

Update 13:05 UTC
- The death toll has, as could be expected, further increased to 63
- 715 people are injured in various degrees
- China Prime Minister Hu Jintao gave personally high priority instructions to do whatever necessary to help the people in the disaster area
- 15 county towns have been damaged in various degrees
- It is currently dark in China and the power has not been restored in all affected areas yet
- 3961 rooms are destroyed
- 13876 rooms damaged
- 3455 livestock pens destroyed
- 11633 livestock pens damaged

Update 10:59 UTC
- A reporter who was inspecting the area saw huge landslides on both sides of the valley.
- Roads are being blocked by huge rocks.
- A boulder measuring 36 meter was blocking the river, creating a small lake
- The houses of 30 families living near a zinc mine have all been damaged
- aftershocks are following each other very fast. More landslides and rockfall is being triggered by the many aftershocks
- rescue workers have still problems to reach some areas as roads are blocked

Update 10:47 UTC
- Most of the fatalities (49 of the 50) have been reported from Yilang county
- The local seismological bureau has given 4 reasons why the death toll is higher in Yilang county
a) very high population density (205 people per sq/km vs 117 in the rest of Yunnan)
b) poorly constructed houses because of poor families and almost no industrial activity (no earthquake resistant building)
c) mountains and slopes which can trigger easily secondary effects like landslides
d) the double strong earthquakes impact. The second earthquake was shallower and closer to densely populated areas
- Experts from CEA (National Earthquake Authority) will arrive soon at the scene to help with the local authorities. National experts are only sent in after major earthquake events.
- High Voltage Power supply facilities have been severely damaged

Update 10:31 UTC
- China TV now reports that 50 people have lost their life in a double moderate earthquake, making this earthquake one of the most deadly this year. Assessment is currently done by the Chinese authorities
- Darkness will set in in a couple of hours making rescue work even more dangerous. Rescuers still have to cope with aftershocks of M3 to M4.

Image courtesy

Update 09:20 UTC
- This is the unfolding report of the Yunnan earthquake China, no more updates since our 08:31 UTC report
- More information can come in at any minute
- If you want to know more about this earthquake, please keep this page open and refresh it at regular times as we will continue following up this cruel earthquake the following hours
- is following up both official information (national and regional seismological bureaus and rescue departments, civil defense authorities as well as Chinese news media)

Update 08:31 UTC
- The death toll of the double M5.6 / M5.7 earthquake has further climbed to 43 (42 in Yiliang County, 1 in Zhaoyang District).
- 700,000 people have been affected by this cruel earthquake
- 100,000 people have been relocated
- Major fires are currently going on in the damaged areas (can be seen on the latest video below)

Update 08:10 UTC
The Yunnan Provincial Civil Affairs department has just released an update :
- 24 dead, 150 injured.
- 100000 people evacuated/relocated
- 20000+ households with damage
- ER expects that the Economic loss estimate is coming out to $220-390 million based on the current parameters. (still waiting on a damage-based estimate).

Image courtesy CCTV

Update 07:48 UTC
- Apart from the mainshocks, a lot of aftershocks are hitting the area
- The current rainy weather is making the soil very unstable, thus triggering a lot of minor and major landslides
- The Chinese CEA authority has send a 10-man supervisory team to the area. These National teams are only flying in in major disaster cases.

Update 07:40 UTC
- Reports are also talking about severely injured people which means that the death toll will probably climb further
- The news of serious landslides also means that remotely located villages may have been hit by landslides too. Priority is mostly given to the bigger cities.
- Greatly seen in the world as small tremors proof once more to become a deadly cocktail in China. Earthquakes cannot be pinned into a Magnitude / Dangerous relation. Much more has to be accounted for.

Important update 07:33 UTC
- Various Chinese media are now reporting a death toll of at least 20 people. (has to be confirmed by the Yunnan Earthquake Bureau)

- Power has been lost in some areas as transmission poles were knocked down by landslides
- Rail traffic has been halted in the region
- 6,000 tents, 6,000 quilts and 6,000 coats are distributed to the population

- Death toll has reached 7.
- In addition, 20000 households have damage of some form.

At least 6 are dead according to new reports. The M5.7 earthquake had a 14km depth, and was 15km from Yiliang county and 30 kilometers from Zhaotong City. Damage is expected in both locations.
- The earthquake was felt as far as Chengdu, hundreds of km from the epicenter

Zhaotong Prefecture is home to 5.74 million people but has a reasonably low GDP of around CNY39 billion  per year (6.2 billion USD). It is mainly agricultural in nature. The exposed capital stock according to CATDAT in terms of net capital infrastructure is around 14.2 billion USD, of which around 2.1 billion USD is in the most affected areas including Yiliang County. Hence we are looking at a damage bill in at least the 100s of millions of USD if directly impacted. The rural net capita income is about CNY2900 (around 500USD).

UPDATE:- At least 20,000 rooms (around 6,000 houses) are destroyed at first estimates, with 6000 tents being sent to the region and many other disaster supplies.

Epicenter right by the city.

UPDATE:- The dual quakes hit about 57 minutes apart, both of around M5.6, with much panic.
We are still waiting on damage reports but know that much damage has occurred. More than 150 people from disaster services have rushed to the scene.

Over 6.7 million people live within 100km of this quake. Yiliang county itself has around 500,000 inhabitants and is extremely mountainous having differences of 520m above sea level to 2800m within the county.


51 minutes after the event, 39 people were sent to the area from the Seismological Bureau.

According to Yunnan Yiliang radio and television reporter sent to CCTV's news, a 5.6 earthquake occurred in Yunnan Yiliang, some houses have collapsed and landslides hindered transportation.

Most important Earthquake Data:
Magnitude : 5.7 (CENC), 5.6 (CENC)
UTC Time : 03:19:42 UTC, Friday, 7th September, 2012.
Local time at epicenter : 11:19:42, Friday, 7th September, 2012.
Depth (Hypocenter) : 10km, 10km
Geo-location(s) : 1km (1mi) SW of Jiaokui, China
39km (24mi) NE of Zhaotong, China
84km (52mi) NNW of Weining, China
120km (75mi) SW of Xunchang, China

Links to important maps
Google satellite map showing the epicenter and the surrounding area
Historic earthquakes map

Shaking map
Scientific parameters
Human impact map

Click here for examples of our "earthquake notifications (button below)"

Refresh this list
SRC Location UTC Date/time M D INFO
CENC Yunnan, China Sep 07 13:13 3.0 8 MAP
GEOFON Yunnan, China Sep 07 05:12 4.6 10 MAP
EMSC Sichuan-yunnan-guizhou Rg, China Sep 07 05:12 4.8 10 MAP
USGS Sichuan-yunnan-guizhou Region, China Sep 07 05:12 4.8 10 MAP
CENC Yunnan, China Sep 07 05:12 4.4 9 MAP
EMSC Sichuan-yunnan-guizhou Rg, China Sep 07 04:16 5.6 10 MAP
GEOFON Yunnan, China Sep 07 04:16 5.3 10 MAP
USGS Sichuan-yunnan-guizhou Region, China Sep 07 04:16 5.6 9 MAP
CENC Yunnan, China Sep 07 04:16 5.6 10 MAP
CENC Yunnan, China Sep 07 04:06 3.2 10 MAP
CENC Yunnan, China Sep 07 03:58 4.3 10 MAP
EMSC Sichuan-yunnan-guizhou Rg, China Sep 07 03:58 4.9 10 MAP
GEOFON Yunnan, China Sep 07 03:58 4.9 10 MAP
USGS Sichuan-yunnan-guizhou Region, China Sep 07 03:58 4.9 10 MAP
CENC Yunnan, China Sep 07 03:19 5.7 14 MAP
EMSC Sichuan-yunnan-guizhou Rg, China Sep 07 03:19 5.6 10 MAP
USGS Sichuan-yunnan-guizhou Region, China Sep 07 03:19 5.6 9 MAP
GEOFON Yunnan, China Sep 07 03:19 5.6 10 MAP


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I felt the shaking *
Country where you felt the earthquake *
City/Village where you felt the earthquake *
Street or suburb (area) where you felt the earthquake
Latitude (area) where you felt the earthquake
Longitude (area) where you felt the earthquake
Shaking Strength *
MMI II (Very weak shaking) ?
People :
Felt by persons at rest, on upper floors or favorably placed.
MMI III (Weak shaking) ?
People :
Felt indoors; hanging objects may swing, vibration similar to passing of light trucks, duration may be estimated, may not be recognized as an earthquake.
MMI IV (Light shaking) ?
People :
Generally noticed indoors but not outside. Light sleepers may be awakened. Vibration may be likened to the passing of heavy traffic, or to the jolt of a heavy object falling or striking the building.
Fittings :
Doors and windows rattle. Glassware and crockery rattle. Liquids in open vessels may be slightly disturbed. Standing motorcars may rock.
Structures :
Walls and frames of buildings, and partitions and suspended ceilings in commercial buildings, may be heard to creak.
MMI V (Moderate shaking) ?
People :
Generally felt outside, and by almost everyone indoors. Most sleepers awakened. A few people alarmed.
Fittings :
Small unstable objects are displaced or upset. Some glassware and crockery may be broken. Hanging pictures knock against the wall. Open doors may swing. Cupboard doors secured by magnetic catches may open. Pendulum clocks stop, start, or change rate.
Structures :
Some large display windows cracked. A few earthenware toilet fixtures cracked.
MMI VI (Strong shaking) ?
People Felt by all. People and animals alarmed. Many run outside. Difficulty experienced in walking steadily.
Fittings :
Objects fall from shelves. Pictures fall from walls. Some furniture moved on smooth floors, some unsecured free-standing fireplaces moved. Glassware and crockery broken. Very unstable furniture overturned. Small church and school bells ring. Appliances move on bench or table tops. Filing cabinets or "easy glide" drawers may open (or shut).
Structures :
Slight damage to buildings with low standard. Some stucco or cement plaster falls. Large display windows broken. Damage to a few weak domestic chimneys, some may fall.
Environment :
Trees and bushes shake, or are heard to rustle. Loose material may be dislodged from sloping ground, e.g. existing slides, talus slopes, shingle slides.
MMI VII (Very strong shaking) ?
General alarm. Difficulty experienced in standing. Noticed by motorcar drivers who may stop.
Fittings :
Large bells ring. Furniture moves on smooth floors, may move on carpeted floors. Substantial damage to fragile contents of buildings.
Structures :
Unreinforced stone and brick walls cracked. Low standard buildings cracked with some minor masonry falls. A few instances of damage to buildings of ordinary workmanship. Unbraced parapets, unbraced brick gables, and architectural ornaments fall. Roofing tiles, especially ridge tiles may be dislodged. Many unreinforced domestic chimneys damaged, often falling from roof-line. Water tanks Type I burst. A few instances of damage to brick veneers and plaster or cement-based linings. Unrestrained water cylinders (hot-water cylinders) may move and leak. Some common windows cracked. Suspended ceilings damaged.
Environment :
Water made turbid by stirred up mud. Small slides such as falls of sand and gravel banks, and small rock-falls from steep slopes and cuttings. Instances of settlement of unconsolidated or wet, or weak soils. Some fine cracks appear in sloping ground. A few instances of liquefaction (i.e. small water and sand ejections).
MMI VIII (Severe shaking) ?
People Alarm may approach panic. Steering of motorcars greatly affected. Structures : Low standard buildings heavily damaged, some collapse. ordinary workmanship buildings damaged, some with partial collapse. Reinforced masonry or concrete buildings damaged in some cases. A few instances of damage to buildings and bridges designed and built to resist earthquakes. Monuments and pre-1976 elevated tanks and factory stacks twisted or brought down. Some pre-1965 infill masonry panels damaged. A few post-1980 brick veneers damaged. Decayed timber piles of houses damaged. Houses not secured to foundations may move. Most unreinforced domestic chimneys damaged, some below roof-line, many brought down. Environment : Cracks appear on steep slopes and in wet ground. Small to moderate slides in roadside cuttings and unsupported excavations. Small water and sand ejections and localized lateral spreading adjacent to streams, canals, lakes, etc.
MMI IX (Violent shaking) ?
Structures Many low standard buildings destroyed. Ordinary workmanship buildings heavily damaged, some collapse. Reinforced masonry or concrete buildings damaged, some with partial collapse. Buildings and bridges designed and built to resist earthquakes damaged in some cases, some with flexible frames seriously damaged. Damage or permanent distortion to some buildings and bridges, designed and built to normal use standards. Houses not secured to foundations shifted off. Brick veneers fall and expose frames. Environment : Cracking of ground conspicuous. Landsliding general on steep slopes. Liquefaction effects intensified and more widespread, with large lateral spreading and flow sliding adjacent to streams, canals, lakes, etc.
Tell us your experience and how many seconds the shaking lasted + let us know if your property has been damaged (even slight damage). (max. 500 characters)
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  3. Engr.Sikandar Hayat Siddiqi says


    Many parts of south-eastern China have a history of damaging earthquakes, and the area surrounding the September 7th, 2012 earthquakes is no exception. 30 earthquakes of M5 or above have occurred within 100 km of these events over the past 40 years. Three had magnitudes greater than 5.5, and each of these caused damage and fatalities.

    The largest, a M 6.8 earthquake 80 km to the north of the September 7th events in May 1974, caused over 1500 fatalities. A M 5.6 earthquake just 30 km to the south of these events also caused several fatalities in November 2003. While the September 7th, 2012 events are not considered large earthquakes, the high population density and high vulnerability of structures in the region make such shallow earthquakes particularly damaging.

    It appears the Chinese Government does not have seismic quality control over the type & nature of construction works in rural areas but the question is why ? It is like believe it or not as there are top level seismic structural engineers practicing in China.This will not be wrong if I say it is an irony of fate. I request the Government of China to explain.

    Earthquake Resistant Building Construction Code (ERBCC) be strictly enforced in rural areas and Seismic Construction Monitoring Agency (SCMA) based on this code be set up by the Government of China to prevent this sort of disaster as prevention is better than cure.

    With this much regards & best wishes.

    God Bless us all.

    Engr.Sikandar Hayat Siddiqi
    Principal Scientist & Chief Seismic Technical Co-ordinator, Earthquake & Tsunami Safety Management Initiative (ETASMI)/ Chief Technical Co-ordinator, ETASMI Data Center /Chief Executive, ETASMI Information Service /Project & Seismic Design Management Engineer / Earthquake Public Awareness Consultant
    Our Ref : ETASMI/CE//07-9-12
    Dhaka - Bangladesh/Asia
    Radio Link International Email
    12:50 AM Dhaka Time,Monday,Sept 24 + 6 Hours GMT