domingo, julho 28, 2013

O sismo que mais mortos provocou no século XX foi há 37 anos

The Tangshan Earthquake, also known as the Great Tangshan Earthquake, was a natural disaster that occurred on Wednesday, July 28, 1976. It is believed to be the largest earthquake of the 20th century by death toll. The epicenter of the earthquake was near Tangshan in Hebei, People's Republic of China, an industrial city with approximately one million inhabitants. The number of deaths initially reported by the Chinese government was 655,000, but this number has since been stated to be around 240,000 to 255,000. Another report indicates that the actual death toll was much higher, at approximately 650,000 and explains that the lower estimates are limited to Tangshan and exclude fatalities in the densely populated surrounding areas.
A further 164,000 people were recorded as being severely injured. The earthquake occurred between a series of political events involving the Communist Party of China, ultimately leading to the expulsion of the ruling Gang of Four by Mao's chosen successor Hua Guofeng. In traditional Chinese thought, natural disasters are seen as a precursor of dynastic change.
The earthquake hit in the early morning, at 03:42:53.8 local time (1976 July 27 19:42:53.8 UTC), and lasted 14 to 16 seconds. Chinese government official sources state a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter magnitude scale, though some sources listed it as high as 8.2. It was followed by a major 7.1 magnitude aftershock some 16 hours later, increasing the death toll to over 255,000. The earthquake was generated by the 25-mile long Tangshan Fault, which runs near the city and ruptured due to tectonic forces caused by the Amurian Plate sliding past the Eurasian Plate.

Controversial statistics
Until fairly recently, China's political environment has made it difficult to properly gauge the extent of natural disasters. Successive governments have placed more importance on the appearance of harmony rather than accurate information on damages. The Tangshan Earthquake came at a rather politically sensitive time during the late stages of the Cultural Revolution, making accurate statistics especially difficult to find. The Tangshan earthquake killed 242,000 people according to official figures, though some sources estimate a death toll up to three times higher. This would make it the deadliest earthquake in modern times, and the second or third deadliest in recorded history. It is worth noting that the population of Tangshan at the time the quake struck was estimated to be around 1.6 million and that most of Tangshan's city proper was flattened.
Many experts believe the Chinese government has never released an accurate death toll for the disaster. The death toll figure of 242,419 came from the Chinese Seismological Service in 1988, while some sources have estimated the death toll to be at 650,000. Others range as high as 700,000. The initial estimates of 655,000 dead and 779,000 injured were released by Hebei Revolutionary Committee.
A Tangshan earthquake memorial in Tianjin

The Chinese government refused to accept international aid from the United Nations, and insisted on self-reliance. Shanghai sent 56 medical teams to Tangshan, in addition to the People's Liberation Army who were assisting while also trying to fix their tarnished image of Red guards destructions earlier. Rebuilding infrastructure started immediately in Tangshan, and the city was completely rebuilt. Today Tangshan city is home to nearly three million people and is known as "Brave City of China."

Political aftermath
The earthquake came in one of the most dramatic years in the history of the People's Republic. The earthquake was preceded by the death of Zhou Enlai in earlier months and followed by the death of Mao Zedong in September. The political repercussions of the disaster and its aftermath contributed to the end of the Cultural Revolution. Mao's chosen successor Hua Guofeng showed concern, thereby solidifying his status as China's leader. He, with Chen Yonggui, made a personal visit to Tangshan on August 4 to survey the damage and was photographed in the tasks of cleaning up and comforting the survivors.
Leaders who opposed the return of Deng Xiaoping, especially the group which became known as Gang of Four, filled the press with concern for the victims, but explicitly said that the nation should not be diverted by the earthquake, and that the priority was to denounce Deng instead. Jiang Qing was widely quoted as saying "There were merely several hundred thousand deaths. So what? Denouncing Deng Xiaoping concerns 800 million people." Other Gang of Four slogans said: "Be alert to Deng Xiaoping's criminal attempt to exploit earthquake phobia to suppress revolution!"

NOTA: depois de terem previsto o sismo de 1975 de Haicheng, a 4 de fevereiro de 1975, este sismo foi uma grande derrota para a Revolução Cultural e para o Partido Comunista Chinês - a ponto de, ainda hoje, não sabermos os números reais de mortos provocados por este desastre natural...

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