Earth's Journal

Geosphere Journal Entry

Deadly Quake Jolts China (May 16, 2008)

China qke

The bullseye is the epicenter of this week's deadly earthquake in China. The red line southwest of the epicenter is the Indo-Australian and Eurasian plate boundary. The collision of the plates builds up stress along faults in China's mountains and the Tibetan Plateau. USGS.

Scenes of unimaginable destruction and horror were everywhere after a deadly magnitude 7.9 earthquake jolted the province of Sichuan in southwestern China this week.

The massive quake killed at least 28,000 people and injured more than 150,000 others. The number of deaths may reach 50,000 as more bodies are found in the rubble of collapsed buildings.

The first strong shock was followed by hundreds of smaller aftershocks. The quake's epicenter was near Wenchuan about 60 miles (100 km) west of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. Buildings swayed hundreds of miles away in Beijing in eastern China, as well as in Thailand and Vietnam.

The quake leveled most of the homes in cities and towns close to the epicenter, leaving more than 4 million people homeless. The violent earthquake struck in the middle of the day, destroying several schools filled with students, a hospital, two chemical plants, and thousands of other buildings.

Landslides and downed power and phone lines made it difficult to get to or contact survivors in many towns. The landslides also blocked the water flow of several lakes and rivers, raising the danger of floods across the region.

The earthquake struck along the Beichuan fault, part of the Longmen Shan fault system running through the mountains along the Sichuan Basin. Stress builds up along the fault as crust of the Tibetan Plateau pushes up against crust of the Sichuan Basin. On a continental scale, this stress can be traced to the massive collision between the Indo-Australian plate which carries India with the Eurasian plate. The collision, which began over 50 million years ago and continues to this day, thrust up the majestic Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau.

The quake is the most deadly to hit China since 1976, when the Tangshan quake in the northeastern part of country killed 240,000 people.