On this day….33 years ago, the Chinese industrial city of Tangshan was devastated by the country’s worth earthquake in four centuries. In just 20 seconds, 20 square miles was shaken into rubble.
Survivors said the ground moved around like the sea. Tangshan was the site of one of China’s biggest coalmining complexes, and about 15,000 miners were working underground when the quake struck.
Bizarrely, only 13 of them were killed, whereas above ground the total was at least 242,000. That was the number that the Communist authorities officially admitted to three years later, though by then there were already claims that secret documents had put the death toll at more than 655,000.
There is a belief in China that earthquakes go hand in hand with political upheaval. Six weeks after Tangshan, Chairman Mao died. For the full story see A Disastrous History of the World.