On this day in history., an earthquake measuring 8.2 magnitude on the Richter scale destroys a Chinese city. The city that was destroyed was Tangsha. It was a largely an industrial city with a population of 1,00000 people. This earthquake is regarded as one of the worst in modern history based on the casualties.
The citizens of the city were mostly asleep. This meant that when the earthquake struck that they were in often poorly built houses and at great risk. The Chinese housing authorities were more interested in erecting houses for people than ensuring that they were structurally sound. This meant that much of the housing in the city was flimsy at best.
An estimated 242,000 people in Tangshan and surrounding areas were killed. Some unofficial sources claim that more than twice that figure actually died. It greatly exceeded any other earthquake in terms of its destructiveness in the modern period. The only known earthquake that exceeded it in destructiveness was in India in 1737. The greatest number of deaths caused by an earthquake was the almost a million thought to have died in the Chinese province of Shaanxi in the sixteenth century.
This area of China is very vulnerable to earthquakes. It is caught between two plates that when they crash together can cause an earthquake. China has been afflicted by earthquakes since prehistoric times.
This resulted in the Chinese being the first to develop functioning seismometers. The area around Tangshan is particularly prone to earthquakes.
There were some signs that something was about to happen, The water in the many wells that dotted the city began to fall. Rats were seen running in large packs throughout the city. Many domestic animals such as chickens refused to eat.
The earthquake destroyed some 80 percent of Tangshan’s buildings and homes. The survivors often crawled out of the ruins completely naked having lost everything. The city was a disaster zone and the water and electricity were all cutoff. The earthquake also started fires in many parts of the city.
The Chinese government was not prepared for an earthquake this size. The did send many soldiers to help in the rescue operation. The government in Beijing refused all outside offers of help, even though the country was short of many medicines and also rescue equipment.
The Chinese did manage to rebuild the city. Tangshan was built on an even bigger scale. Some two million people now live in the city. All the buildings must now meet a new building code that will allow them to withstand the biggest earthquakes, including those of a magnitude that destroyed the city in 1976.