On the afternoon of May 12, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit southwest China, in Wenchuan country, a poor mountainous region in Sichuan province. But just four days prior, the local regime had issued a notice to quell “earthquake rumors.”
According to information available up to the early morning May 13, the devastating strike killed more than 10,000 people in the immediate area, and at least 180 people in neighboring Gansu, and Shaanxi provinces. The quake was felt as far away as Beijing, Shanghai, and Bangkok—several thousands kilometers away from the epicenter.
Ten days before the quake struck, some Sichuan residents had called up the local Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Reduction office of the Provincial Seismological Bureau (EPDRSB) to verify “rumors” about an earthquake in the near future.
The bureau denied the possibility of a quake and, on May 9, published a notice on the regime's provincial website decrying such “rumors.” (See the translated notice at the end of the article). After the quake, the notice was deleted.
Besides the above, some mainland Internet surfers also disclosed that the communist regime may have deliberately concealed the information about the earthquake to maintain social stability.
Scientists' Warning on the Internet
One Internet user who claims to have a relative working in the Provincial Seismological Bureau said, “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. My uncle called me some time ago and painfully 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, and not create panic among the public.”
Additionally, news also spread on mainland Internet sites that as early as May 7, a geological worker had posted a message on a BBS predicting a major earthquake near Wuhan City in Sichuan province. The worker provided charts indicating the predicted time and location of the earthquake.
Following is the translation of part of the message:
“I predict China will have an earthquake on May 12, 2008!
I am a geological worker. According to information I have in hand, and exchange 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.
My prediction cannot be announced publicly because there is no real proof and it may cause panic. I am from Wuhan (City); according to my prediction, the earthquake should not be far from Wuhan. I hope my fellow Wuhan residents will tell their families and friends in time to be prepared.”
Authorities in Sichuan appear to have taken no action to mitigate the effects of this predicted seismological disaster. On May 12, just following the earthquake in Sichuan, China's government-controlled CCTV reported during the evening news that the Ministry of Public Security had issued an urgent notice.
The notice warned that strong measures would be taken against those who took the opportunity to spread rumors and stir up unrest. Mr. Gu Yongxin, the deputy director of the Bureau of Seismology ,claimed that Beijing would not have any earthquakes in the near future, and that it was sheer rumor that Beijing would have an earthquake. (To date, no scientific predictions of seismological activity in the Beijing area have surfaced.)
Complete Text of Sichuan Province People's Government Networks Report of May 9:
The Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Reduction of the Seismological Bureau of Ahazhou has Successfully Subsided the Erroneously Scattered Rumors
At 8 p.m. on May 3, the Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Reduction of the Seismological Bureau of Ahazhou received calls to inquire whether “Suomo Town, Maerkong County was going to have a major earthquake that village officials advised villagers to stay outdoors” was true.
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. Upon receiving the notification, the Maerkong Seismological Bureau of immediately contacted Suomo Town People's government and notified them of the situation.
The County government investigated the source speedily and found that in a televised phone conversation of Maerkong County regarding the transmission of provincial geology disaster prevention and control, the village officials mistakenly took the 'geological disaster' as 'earthquake disaster.'
The official clarification by the Earthquake Preparedness and Disaster Reduction of the Seismological Bureau of Ahazhou and other county and village officials alleviated the villagers' worries. Thus, no disaster preparations were made.