At 5.30am this morning I was woken from my slumbers by the biggest earthquake I’ve ever experienced. The one a fortnight ago was magnitude 6.1 and happened 250km away in Laos - this one was 6.4 and only 100km away (by comparison, the recent one in Kent registered 4.7). My VSO friends, the LEAF family, however, were less than 30km away and had breakages, a College-wide evacuation and lots of after-shocks. At the actual epicentre, a town called Pu’Er, 3 people died, 300 were injured and 120,000 residents were evacuated. My flat was shaken hard, and my heart was pounding for a while, but there was no damage. For a few minutes after the quake, there was an eerie silence. Then, as if someone had flicked a switch, the croaking frogs, chirping cicadas, barking dogs and crowing chickens all started up once again ...and I duly went back to bed (before a number of concerned phonecalls got me up again!).
The flat where we're staying in Shenzhen doesn't have internet connection, but news is trickling through of a really bad earthquake in NE Yunnan. It's some way from Kunming, where we live, but close to where I worked for a year in Zhaotong. Many hundreds dead I believe, with thousands losing their houses. Awful.
The death toll continues to rise from the other day's earthquake in Lushan, a village in Sichuan Province - just "up the road". Over 200 dead and 11,500 injured (1000 of those seriously). Some people felt the 6.6 quake here in Kunming, though I didn't myself. We had to quickly ring the half dozen Lattitude volunteers who live a lot nearer to the epicentre. They certainly felt it, though all were safe and none suffered any damage to their flats. Bear in mind this is the same Province where 70,000 died in 2008 from a quake 50 times bigger. Fear levels there must be sky high.
Thanks to those who have been in touch to check on me after the recent landslide in Yunnan. Thankfully (for me) it was over 500km away, though in an area where I have lived and worked in the past (and which suffered from a pretty bad earthquake not long ago, too).
Sadly, those living on the hill below the landslide [see black area in photo above] weren't so lucky. 46 are confirmed dead so far, with rescuers continuing to brave the snow and muddy destruction to try and find further survivors.
Q: How do you tell if someone is
Chinese within 10 seconds?
A: Ask them to use a paper clip...
...after watching my students struggle to work out how to clip some game cards back together for me yesterday, I realised that this is clearly not a skill taught in Chinese schools. The same is true of cutting shapes out of paper - the students usually hold the paper still and try to manoeuvre the scissors around (rather than the other way, which is far easier). Our school secretaries have also been known to staple exam papers together in the strangest of ways. I assume this is all because simple stationary skills are not considered "important for passing for the school exams"?
We had an earthquake here this morning. Nobody I know seems to have noticed. Kunming is overdue a big one, they say...
I was on apparently on TV yesterday. It seems to have been an old documentary which the station dusted down and gave a rerun. A few of our Chinese teachers caught it and mentioned it to me today, one saying "You are now an inspiration to me!". Hmmm. Makes me wonder what they thought of me before...
After a busy day yesterday with the volunteers I finally got home at 10pm and did a quick online scan of the day's news. It revealed there had been a sizeable (5.6) earthquake in Yunnan at around noon. Having felt nothing in Kunming, I shot off a quick email to Lattitude Australia to tell them they could reassure any worried parents there that all was well. It was only then that I investigated further to find out where exactly it was. And it turns out it was 13km from the town where I used to work as a volunteer with VSO, JiaoKui. The BBC video showing the afternath even shows my old Middle School [white, left in the photo above] and students milling around in the playground. About 80 people are thought to have died so far but, after some quick texting, thankfully none of the friends I still keep in touch with there.
I had a visit from the "Balcony Police" today. For those who haven't followed this crazy story so far, TPTB (the powers that be) have decided that all overhanging balconies are ugly and, in an effort to win a "Beautiful City of China" award, they are currently demolishing literally thousands of them. (You might think that their money would be better spent helping the hundreds of villages around the city that currently have no water or crops due to the ongoing drought?). The lady who came today to measure my balcony agreed with me privately that the new flattened facades and silver gratings were, in fact, a lot uglier than the old ornate cages [see photo], but that she was just "doing her job". The demolishers are coming sometime next week.
It seems my recent blog entry recording "only" hundreds of deaths in the Qinghai earthquake was premature. The number of dead has now risen to over 2000. And yet how soon it drops off the international news agenda.
Another day, and another disaster stikes China. I was sleeping when the magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Qinghai, and I live quite some distance away [see photo], but I did feel one of the aftershocks. I wasn't sure it was a quake though and didn't bother checking online until later in the day, when I realised how bad it was.
"Only" hundreds of people have died, and not thousands, thanks to it being a sparcely populated area of West China. No consolation for those caught up in it, though. With 10,000 people injured and many thousands more without houses or possessions, it will be a struggle to rebuild the area, especially because of its remoteness.
Well it only took 3 soaking sessions before my bowl exploded, clearly not designed for a body my size! I was back at the hospital again today, however, this time primarily about the headaches and dizziness I've been getting over the last 5-6 days. The doctor agreed it was a neck problem and tugged my head this way and that to "realign the bones"! It was a bit nerve-wracking and painful, and left me with a worse headache than I came with.
He also prescribed a Chinese herbal medicine for "straightening the neck". The packaging also claims that it will nourish my kidneys, strengthen my brain, calm me AND energise me, cure sores in my waist and knee, help me remember things and sort out blurred vision! Sounds great, right? And made by "Jolly Pharmaceuticals"! The doctor also laughed out loud when I showed him the cream I'd been given for my skin infection by another Chinese doctor a few days ago. "That's for scalds and burns" he explained. So we headed off to another hospital for some other medicine he was sure would help.
We had a very noticeable tremor this afternoon - a 5.0 magnitude quake some 100km (60 miles) away. Klaxons wailed as our car park security guard shouted "Earthquake, earthquake!". Nobody bothered to evacuate though.
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