Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the Great Tangshan Earthquake, believed to be the largest earthquake disaster of the 20th century thanks to its immense death toll. The earthquake hit very early in the morning, at 3:42am, which contributed to its extreme deadliness. Chinese official sources stated that it measured a 7.8 on the Richter scale. It was then followed by a 7.8 magnitude aftershock about 16 hours later.
The government reaction to the Tangshan earthquake compared to that of the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 is one measurement of how much China has changed in the past three decades. While the official death toll for Tangshan is 242,419, the figure is shrouded in controversy. According to Wikipedia:
The Tangshan earthquake killed 242,419 people according to official figures, though some sources estimate a death toll is up to three times higher. This would make it the deadliest earthquake in modern times, and the second or third deadliest in recorded history. It is worth noting that the population of Tangshan at the time of quake strike was estimated to be around 1.6 million. As most of Tangshan’s city proper was flattened, it is reasonable to estimate the actual death toll to be much higher.
Many experts believe the Chinese government has never released an accurate death toll for the disaster. The death toll figure of 242,419 came from the Chinese Seismological Service in 1988, while some sources have estimated the death toll to be at 650,000. Others range as high as 700,000. The initial estimates of 655,000 dead and 779,000 injured were released by Hebei Revolutionary Committee.
The earthquake will be making its way to the silver screen next year, according to CRI English. Feng Xiaogang, director of Big Shot’s Funeral and The Banquet, has started shooting Aftershock, a story of how the Tangshan Earthquake affected the lives surrounding a seven-year-old girl. It’ll be the first Chinese film to be released in IMAX and plans on premiering exactly a year from now.
Photo from US Geological Survey