Gansu, Northwestern China – December 19, 2023
A powerful 6.2-magnitude earthquake rocked the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu on Monday night, claiming the lives of more than 120 people and leaving hundreds injured. The calamity extended its reach to neighboring Qinghai province, where an additional 14 lives were lost. Official reports indicate that 155,000 houses in Gansu suffered damage in the wake of the quake.
The tragedy evolved at 11:59 pm on Monday, with the epicenter located in Jishishan, an autonomous county with a population of 280,000, situated approximately 102 km from the provincial capital, Lanzhou. The effects of the quake were felt across several regions in western and central China, prompting a swift response from authorities.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called upon authorities to exert “every effort” in treating the injured, restoring infrastructure, and assisting affected residents. This disaster marks China’s deadliest earthquake since 617 lives were lost in Yunnan province during an earthquake in August 2014.
Emergency response teams, including firefighters and the air wing of the Western Theatre Command, were promptly dispatched to the disaster area to manage rescue operations. Gansu’s traffic police implemented control measures in the affected area, urging motorists to steer clear unless engaged in rescue efforts.
As of Tuesday morning, damaged roads and rail lines in Gansu were reported to be back in service, though some train services experienced delays. The Ministry of Water Resources is actively working to repair water supply lines in quake-hit rural areas.
The frigid aftermath, exacerbated by a cold wave sweeping through much of China, posed additional challenges for affected regions. Reports suggest a lack of heating equipment in quake-hit areas, potentially hindering rescue efforts in sub-zero temperatures.
Videos and photos circulating on social media depict the grim reality faced by residents, with firefighting crews tirelessly working to extract those trapped under rubble. State broadcaster CCTV reported that a village in Qinghai province near Gansu experienced a silt wash, leaving 13 residents missing.
The National Health Commission has mobilized medical experts from top hospitals to provide support in the disaster area. Gansu province’s top officials, including provincial Communist Party secretary Hu Changsheng and governor Ren Zhenhe, personally headed to the affected region.
The Ministry of Emergency Management and the Ministry of Finance have jointly released 200 million yuan (US$28 million) in relief funds for Gansu and Qinghai. The China Earthquake Networks Centre’s preliminary analysis indicates that the quake was a thrust-type rupture, with the epicenter situated on the northeastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau.
As the world mourns the loss of lives, international support has started pouring in. Hong Kong, Taiwan, and several embassies in Beijing, including those of the United States, Canada, Japan, France, Iran, and Israel, have expressed condolences and offered assistance in the ongoing disaster response efforts.
In this challenging time, the global community stands united in expressing solidarity with the people affected by this tragic event, hoping for the swift recovery of all victims.