Dams and Earthquakes

Public asked to report earthquake omens

(March 30, 2011) According to China Daily, the Chinese government is proposing new emergency preparedness measures which would encourage citizens to report signs of imminent earthquakes to officials, but forbid people from publicly predicting them.

SHANGHAI (China Daily) – The government of East China’s Jiangsu province is encouraging residents to report abnormal natural phenomena or abnormal animal behavior, either of which may be an omen signaling that an earthquake is imminent, according to a draft rule issued by the government.

To invite public comment, the legislative affairs office of Jiangsu posted the draft to its website on Monday.

The proposed rule encourages witnesses of abnormal phenomena to report what they saw to earthquake departments at the county level or above, or to make direct reports to the China Earthquake Administration.

The rule would then have earthquake departments conduct investigations and attempt to verify within five working days whether the information they received is grounded in fact.

The draft rule also clarifies the procedures to be followed in predicting the occurrence of earthquakes, and says information concerning earthquake forecasts should be released through the provincial government.

The rule further stipulates that no institutions or persons should circulate such predictions, although they may still publish the results of long-term earthquake research and take part in academic studies.

And it requires both county earthquake departments and those at higher levels to improve the methods they use to predict the occurrences of earthquakes and to establish networks for circulating information about how the public should respond to quakes.

The rule mandates that kindergartens, schools, hospitals and other buildings that often contain many people be built to be better able than other types of structures to withstand quakes.

It also presents a list of public-work projects that must be tested for their ability to hold up during earthquakes. They include subways, highways, railways, tunnels, bridges, airports, train stations, power stations, electrical substations, oil and gas pipelines, medium and large reservoirs, dams and pumping stations.

Also on the list are emergency and command centers, large stadiums, theaters, libraries, exhibition centers and museums.

In 2008, after a 8.0-magnitude earthquake in southwestern Sichuan province killed nearly 70,000 people on May 12, many Chinese netizens went to blogs and bulletin boards to report that an abnormal migration of tens of thousands of toads had occurred shortly before the disaster in Mianyang, a city close to Wenchuan, which was the epicenter of earthquake. The behavior was later seen as an omen.

Such interpretations lingered online, even though seismologists later refuted the notion that the migration of the toads was connected to the earthquake.

Some think the provincial government’s proposed rule will help prevent unfounded speculations from spreading.

“Most abnormal natural phenomena may not be linked to earthquakes,” said a local resident surnamed Su.

“Still, it’s good to have a channel to report them and get feedback. (In the past) people didn’t know the reason for anomalies in animals’ behaviors or in the weather, and they posted (their speculations) online, which were then exaggerated and spread and triggered a public panic.”

Read the original story here.

China Daily, March 30, 2011

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