Gulang Earthquake in China, 1927: How It Began, Facts, Statistics
China is a country of high seismic activity. Since the beginning of the 20th century, about 800 earthquakes of magnitude six or higher on the Richter scale have occurred in China. They have affected all regions except Hong Kong and the provinces of Guizhou, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. During this time, the number of deaths from earthquakes in China has exceeded 550 thousand people, 53% of the global figures. China accounts for only 7% of the Earth’s landmass but a third of all mainland earthquakes.
Why Are There So Many Earthquakes?
China is influenced by the Pacific, Indian, Philippine, and Eurasian lithospheric plates. Even minimal movements of these parts of the Earth’s crust cause earthquakes. The large number of victims from the underground elements in the country is due to the huge population and the strongest tremors that reach almost the maximum possible magnitude of 8.5. Scientists believe that earthquakes stronger than magnitude 9.0 cannot occur on Earth.
Researchers identify the main seismic belt in China, which runs from the north to the country’s south. It runs along the Helanshan Ridge (Ningxia-Hui Autonomous Region), Lupan Mountains (Gansu Province), Quinlin (Shaanxi Province), and Dalianshan (Sichuan Province). This belt conventionally divides China into eastern and western parts. According to statistics, earthquakes “prefer” the west. Their intensity is much higher there: about 5-6 cases per one eastern one.
1927 China Earthquake: How It All Began
The 1927 Gulang earthquake began with incredible light effects. In the future underground storm area, about five and a half hours before it began, a white glow illuminated the night sky. The earthquake’s epicenter was in Gulang, and almost all of its residents died under the rubble of buildings. The earthquake was felt 700 km away from the epicenter. 1927 Gulang earthquake fact: more than 40 900 people became victims of the terrible event.
Magnitude Length And Damage
All the plants and factories, as well as residential buildings, were instantly turned into ruins. Bridges, dams, railroads, highways and pipelines were destroyed. Fires blazed with no one to put out. The entire city was practically leveled to the ground, covered with many huge cracks.
In Gulang County, 4,000 people and 30,000 domestic animals were killed. All the cave dwellings and 90% of the houses within the highest intensity radius were destroyed. Only a 20 m (66 ft) section of the city wall and a few arches stood in Gulang.
In Wuwei, the city walls, ancient temples and shrines, and dwellings fell, 35,000 people and 200,000 livestock were killed. At Yunchang, elementary schools, defensive forts, and temples were destroyed, and about 1,000 people were killed. In Shandan, 5,800 houses were damaged, and cave dwellings collapsed.
The Earth was covered with cracks up to 14 kilometers long and up to 13 meters wide. A large landslide in Dongchuan permanently destroyed nearby villages and blocked roads.
The earthquake was felt in a radius of hundreds of miles from the epicenter. Neighboring towns were also badly affected. After the disaster, also the 1927 Gulang earthquake was closed to the public for two years.
The Chinese built temporary shelters for the wounded, but they were insufficient. Water supply was a serious problem. Survivors of the tragedy said later that they had been without food and water for several days. There were not enough rescuers, and thousands of corpses were left under the rubble.
Later, there was the Gansu earthquake of 1927, which reached 4-5 points on the Richter scale. But there was nothing left to destroy — instead of a big city, a huge space was left consisting of nothing but ruins.
What Do The Statistics Say?
According to statistics, seismic catastrophes are occurring with increasing frequency on Earth. And there is as yet no explanation. Whereas in 1900-1930 there were “only” 2,000 recorded underground storms, in the period 1940-1982 there were as many as 1,000 every year. 1983 — seismological instruments registered 300 000 underground shocks of different strengths.
Since 1984, the number of recorded earthquakes is already about 1,000 per day. Of course, not all of them cause human casualties and destruction, but the proportion of dangerous earthquakes is also growing. So we can only hope that all will be well in the future.