Wednesday 14 April 2010

China - land of disasters

At least 400 people have been killed in an earthquake that has struck the remote area of Yushu in China’s western Qinghai province. The quake measured 6.9, compared with 7.0 in Haiti and 8.8 in Chile in February.

Nearly every building in the town of Jiegu is said to have been destroyed. Many Tibetans live in the area, and the relief effort is being hampered by landslides that have blocked roads.

China’s worst earthquake in recent years was the one that struck Sichuan in 2008 killing 87,000, but it is truly a country of disasters. Probably the deadliest earthquake the world has ever seen killed 830,000 people in Shaanxi province in 1556, while China also suffered the worst floods in history, with the Yellow River killing up to 2.5 million when it burst its banks in 1889, and the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers accounting for perhaps 3 million in 1931.

More than 1,540 miners perished in the world’s worst mining disaster at Honkeiko in 1942, while in the late 1870’s up to 13 million people died in one of the country's regular famines. The great hunger of 1959-61, hugely aggravated by Chairman Mao’s doctrinaire policies, brought a death toll of perhaps 40 million, while an estimated 36 million were killed in the An Lushan rebellion of the 8th century. For more details on all these stories, see A Disastrous History of the World.

(See also my blogs of Jan 10, Feb 22, March 27, May 11, July 28, Nov 19 and 23, 2009, Jan 15 and 22, Feb 9 and 15, 2010.)

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