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Earthquake hits Tibet PDF Print E-mail
[14 April 2010] An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale has hit eastern Tibet. The earthquake struck the Jyekundo region (aka Kyegundo; Ch: Yushu county) in Kham (Qinghai province) just before 8am local time on 14 April 2010.

Tibet Relief Fund has set up an emergency appeal fund that will help local people in the aftermath of this tragic disaster.
Click here to donate.

Report - 30 April
[30 April 2010] The official death toll from the earthquake currently stands at 2,220 (according to Xinhua on 26 April, the last official figures published). 70 people were still reported missing. Over 12,000 were injured in the quake, over 100,000 made homeless, including 8,000 monks, and 87 monasteries in the region were seriously damaged.

A Tibetan intellectual and writer has been arrested for privately organising donations for earthquake victims. Tagyal, also known as Zhogs Dung, was detained by police on 23 April following a raid on his office. Though known as a moderniser and considered closely associated with the Communist Party, Tagyal had become more critical of the government's policies in Tibet in recent weeks. Prior to his arrest he had called on Tibetans to donate to those in need in Jyekundo in a private capacity rather than through official state channels.

The Dalai Lama's request to visit the region has been mostly ignored by the Chinese government and by the state media. However, on 30 April the People's Daily published an opinion, which criticised the Dalai Lama's request. The article accused the Dalai Lama of using the quake for propaganda purposes and criticised his 2009 visit to meet survivors of the Taiwanese earthquake as a "political show" by "holding a 'victims soothing' flag".

Following reports last week that monks had been ordered to leave the disaster area, the Chinese government announced a commitment to repairing 87 monasteries damaged by the quake. At the same time the Provincial Civil Affairs Bureau announced it would provide 8,000 yuan (approx 760) in subsidies to families for each death from the quake.

China also responded to criticism in some foreign media reports of the lack of official acknowledgment of the role of the monks in the relief effort. Chinese state media began to publicly praise the monks' efforts. For example, on 27 April the People's Daily said, "The exceptional disaster has instead given China a chance to display the deep affection between Tibetans and Han nationality who have helped each other like a family. The fact that monks and soldiers joined hands to rescue survivors was one of such unforgettable scenes."

However, Reporters Without Borders have revealed that the state media have now been ordered by the government to not focus too much on the relief efforts of the monks. Beijing has called for an overall reduction in earthquake coverage from 25 April, and an increase in the number of reports about the Shanghai Expo. Since this edict the number of Chinese media reports from Jyeku has diminsihed.

Links to news reports (23-30 April)
People's Daily: Comforting Yushu-Dalai's another tragedy (30 April)
Reporters Without Borders: China sets rule for covering Expo and earthquake (29 April)
People's Daily: China never restricts monks from quake relief nor asks them to leave (27 April)
Times (in uygurnews): Tibetan writer held for organising Yushu quake donations (26 April)
High Peaks Pure Earth: Shogdung detained (26 April)
Huffington Post: Beyond the Headlines - The Earthquake in Tibet (26 April)
AP (in the Guardian): China pledges to repair quake-damaged monasteries (24 April)
People's Daily:Yushu quake brings Han, Tibetan people together (23 April)

Report - 23 April
[23 April] Chinese media are reporting the death toll currently standing at 2,187, of which 207 were schoolchildren.  80 people are still reported missing. 12,135 people were injured and approximately 100,000 left homeless.

The number of dead is still disputed. The Asia Sentinel reported a senior Tibetan lama from the area saying that his monastery alone had cremated 3,400 bodies by last Sunday. The lama reckoned the number of dead was "in the region of 8,000 to 9,000".

Earlier in the week, monks, who had the been the first on the scene after the quake hit, were ordered to leave the disaster zone and return to their monasteries. It is believed the Chinese leadership are concerned the disaster does not exacerbate ethnic tensions, and are uneasy at the influence of the monks on the local population.

A statement by Chinese authorities, reported by AP on Friday, says the monks were advised to leave to allow "specialized personnel to start their work". The official statement added, "It would bring more difficulties to disaster relief work if lots of unprofessional personnel were at the scene. [Though] we fully recognize contribution of monks who came to the disaster zone from other areas, in order to ensure the scientific effectiveness and order of rescue work, we advised them to return to their monasteries." Ministry of Civil Affairs spokesman Peng Chenmin was quoted in Xinhua as saying the monks participation in the rescue efforts was "a good thing which represents the spirit of ethnic unity that Tibetan and Han are from the same family."

However, amid hours of coverage for China's national day of mourning on Wednesday, no monks were visible in the official proceedings. State-run broadcasters spotlighted instead the efforts of the military and the People's Armed Police as they delivered tents, water and food, and lifted injured people from crumbled buildings. Flags flew at half mast across the country and public entertainment was curtailed as a mark of respect. President Hu Jintao led a three-minute silence, which was broadcast on state TV. "For our countrymen who have suffered from the earthquake in Yushu, Qinghai, let us mourn in silence," he said.

Snow was reported to be falling again in the region on Thursday, slowing recovery aid efforts. More snow is forecast for the weekend.

Voice of Tibet (VOT) radio has had its condolence message transmissions into Tibet jammed. VOT had appealed to the Chinese government to allow its special programme of messages of support and solidarity from Tibetans and sympathisers to be broadcast. VOT had separated the messages from its regular Tibetan news and current affairs programmes. However the appeal has been ignored and the broadcast has been blocked.

Links to news reports (21-23 April)
AP (in the Guardian): China says monks advised to leave quake area (23 April)
AFP: China quake killed 207 schoolchildren: state media (23 April)
AFP: Voice of Tibet says China 'jamming' quake condolences (22 April)
AP (in the Guardian): Tibetan monks ordered out of China's quake zone (21 April)
BBC: China holds national day of mourning for quake dead (21 April)
Asia Sentinel: Questions Over Quake Toll in Tibet (21 April)

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Report - 20 April
[13.00 GMT, 20 April] The official death toll now stands at 2,046. Chinese media report that 196 people are still missing and 12,135 have been injured. Hail, snow and sleet hit the region on Tuesday, slowing rescue work and delaying supplies entering the area. Officials say weather conditions are expected to continue to deteriorate over the next few days, which will further hamper rescue and relief efforts.

International Tibet Support Network have issued an online petition directed to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, urging them to allow the Dalai Lama to visit Jyeku and the region. This petition follows a letter written by Tibetans from Kyegundo to the Chinese leaders.
Sign the petition I Read translation of Tibetan letter

The Chinese government announced a national day of mourning for the victims of the earthquake will be held on Wednesday. Flags will be flown at half-mast across China and at Chinese embassies and consulates around the world. Live events, including theatre and sports, are to be postponed and online entertainment will be suspended for the day across China.

At a press conference, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu did not directly answer questions about whether China would allow the Dalai Lama to visit the quake-hit area, saying only that relief efforts were "in good order" and that "the local people's religious beliefs and customs are well-respected". However, on Monday, China's top parliamentary advisor, Jia Qinglin, warned of "hostile forces from abroad working to cause disruptions and sabotage" in the quake's aftermath.

A report by National Public Radio (USA) quotes Wang Lixiong, Chinese author and critic of China's Tibet policies, as saying that official rescue efforts are being concentrated in areas where the media can best see them, whilst the rescue efforts of the monks are being mostly ignored.

Google have released satellite images of Jyeku, before and after last week's earthquake. The pictures clearly show the vast devastation caused to the city.
Image set 1 I Image set 2 I Image set 3

Links to news reports (20 April)
BBC: China to hold national day of mourning for quake dead
CNN: China plans day of mourning for quake victims
Phayul: Weather disrupts relief work in Kyigudo as death toll reaches 2046
AFP: Google releases satellite images of China quake damage
NPR: Buddhist Monks Care For Quake Victims' Remains
BBC: Fears for the future in quake-hit Yushu
(A personal report on the situation from an American teaching in Jyeku.)

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Report - 19 April
[12.30 GMT, 19 April] The death toll has risen to 1,944, according to Chinese officials. At least 216 people are still missing and 12,135 injured, many seriously. Many of the government rescue teams are reported to be now leaving as the chance of survival of those trapped in the rubble is considered remote. However, monks and local residents are continuing to search for survivors.

Officials say people in the quake zone now have basic shelter, food and water. However, reports indicate many of the supply trucks are still backed up on roads leading to Jyegu.

President Hu Jintao flew to the region Sunday to inspect relief efforts and visit victims, promising to build new schools and homes. The president's carefully scripted trip included visits with displaced families living in tents and rescue teams as they dug through debris. He also sat with injured survivors in a field hospital and promised the Communist Party and the government was doing everything they could to help the quake victims. There has been no official response to the request for the Dalai Lama to visit the region.

The Chinese government said 25,000 tents and more than 50,000 quilts had arrived by Sunday for the up to 100,000 people left homeless by the quake. Xinhua said the central government had allocated 3,680 tons of wheat flour and 920 tons of rice for Yushu. Each person in Yushu would receive a daily grain ration of 0.5 kilograms for the next three months, it quoted officials as saying.

The region is still being hit by tremors. According to Xinhua, over 1200 aftershocks have been recoded since the main quake hit, 12 of which were over a magnitude of 3.

Links to news reports (19 April)

Reuters: China quake death toll nears 2,000
BBC: China quake survivors found as death toll nears 2,000
The Guardian: Four-year-old girl and elderly woman rescued from China quake rubble
AP (in the Guardian): 2 survivors pulled out 5 days after China quake

Blog - personal account from Jyeku resident
Public photo gallery - photos from Jyegu

Links to news reports (18 April)
BBC: China president visits quake zone
AP (in the Guardian): China's Hu comforts quake victims on scripted trip
Epoch Times: Shoddy School Construction Blamed for Earthquake Deaths, Again
Epoch Times: Regime Stops Civilian and International Quake Rescue Teams
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Report - 17 April
[20.00 GMT, 17 April] According to Sky News, Chinese news agencies are now reporting the death toll as having reached 1,484, with hundreds still missing. However Tibetans continue to insist the number of dead will be much greater, as many people are yet to be recovered from the rubble, and believe the Chinese government is playing down the figures.

The authorities have decided to cremate victims, and forego traditional burial rituals, because of fears that disease may spread rapidly. Local monks constructed a huge funeral pyre near Jyegu, where some 700 bodies were cremated.

China has despatched 10,000 troops and doctors to help, but the scale of the devastation is so large, they are struggling to cope. A report posted in the Japanese press alludes to a tense atmosphere in the region and the Chinese government's concern to maintain stability prior to the opening of the Shanghai Expo.

Tibetans in Jyekundo have asked President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to invite the Dalai Lama to visit the quake affected area. The letter, published on the Chinese website, asked the Chinese leaders to set aside political differences with the Dalai Lama and allow him to visit the area and pray for the victims. The letter said, Today, as we are suffering from a great physical and mental anguish, we really need His Holiness to visit the quake affected area to pray for the departed souls and to provide solace to the broken hearts. Today, we request you, president Hu and premier Wen, to find the compassion in your hearts and fulfill this desire of us quake victims.

The Dalai Lama has said he would like to visit the region to comfort survivors. In a statement issued today he said, "The location of the earthquake... happens to be where both the late Panchen Lama and I were born. To fulfill the wishes of many of the people there, I am eager to go there myself to offer them comfort." View the full statement here.

Links to news reports (17 April)

Sky News: More Than 1,400 Dead After China Quake (note: picture gallery at end of report has very graphic and potentially distressing photos)
Asahi (Japan): Beijing moves to thwart unrest
Phayul: Families of Tibet quake victims ask Hu and Wen to invite the Dalai Lama
BBC: China quake bodies burnt on pyres in Jiegu
Guardian: Earthquake survivors in Tibet mourn loss of treasured heritage
NY Times: After Quake, Ethnic Tibetans Distrust Chinas Help
Xinhua: Death toll rises to 1,339 in China quake
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Report - 16 April
[20.00 GMT, 16 April] Official figures currently state that 1,144 are confirmed dead, with another 294 missing. Local people however are still saying the number of dead is much higher. Over 11,000 people have been injured. Those seriously injured are now being transferred to hospitals in Xining and in Sichuan province. An estimated 100,000 people are believed to be homeless. It is reported that approximately 15,000 houses in Yushu have been destroyed.

Rescue efforts continue, but it is believed the chances of finding anymore survivors in the rubble is fading as temperatures at night are below freezing.

Hundreds of monks from the region are helping with rescue efforts. Chinese state media are, however, are only reporting on PLA troops who have been sent ot the area to assist with search for survivors. Radio Free Asia has reported local residents as saying the Chinese troops are focussing their efforts on residences of government officials and government buildings, whilst monks and locals are having to search the rubble of Tibetan houses.

There is still little information on how neighbouring areas have been affected. Reports so far are focussing on Jekyu. Tibet Society heard today from a contact with a family member in the neighbouring county of Chindu (Ch: Chengduo) - a 2 hour drive from Jekyu - who said residents there are staying in tents due to the heavy damage buildings received during the earthquake. There was no infomation on casualties.

The Kalon Tripa (the Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile) has said that the Dalai Lama has expressed a wish to visit the earthquake-hit region, and if conditions are favourable (i.e. the Chinese government agree) then he would be willing to travel at the earliest opportunity.

(Note: the photos in this section are copyright of Jinpa Trust.)
Further photos can be seen here.

Links to news reports (16 April)
BBC: China rescue effort builds after Qinghai earthquake
CNN: China quake death toll tops 1,100
Reuters: Quake sees Tibetan Buddhist monks assert roles
Reuters: Tibetans mourn as China quake toll hits 791
The Guardian: China earthquake death toll rises to nearly 800
Radio Free Asia: Monks Aid Rescue Bid
Xinhua: Chinese rescuers fight clock to find quake survivors as death toll hits 791
(note: Xinhua is the official news agency of the Chinese government)

Video footage from Jekyu, by resident shortly after eathquake struck (2m 57s - no sound)
CNN: Video report - Search for survivors in China earthquake (2m 27s)

The Telegraph: China earthquake in pictures: rescue attempts continue
NY Times: Photos -
Rescue Efforts Continue After China Quake
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Report - 15 April
[15.00 GMT, 15 April] Chinese state media are reporting that 617 people have died and over 9,000 injured as a result of the earthquake 313 remain missing. However, locals still fear the number may rise significantly.

Reports from local residents indicate that Thrangu Monastery near the town of Jyeku has been destroyed by the earthquake. 25 monks are believed to be dead, 5 others are missing and about 50 are injured.

Bodies of those who died in the earthquake are being carried up to Kyedo monastery, which is understood to have survived largely intact. There is currently inadequate medical help, with hospitals also having being affected. Injured people are being left on the streets.

Last night, despite below freezing temperatures, people slept outdoors, even those with accomodation as there continued to be aftershocks. At least six aftershocks with magnitudes between 4.1 and 5.8 have hit the region since the main quake.

There are fears that the Trangyu Gompa (Ch: Changu) dam may burst as cracks have appeared. Many local residents have fled to higher ground as a precaution. According to International Rivers, Chinese news reports have said the dam is "at the risk of collapse at any time" and would endanger the lives of more than 100,000 people living downstream. The BBC have reported that Chinese officials are draining the reservior.

According to media reports 85%-90% of the buildings in Jyeku have been destroyed, including, according to the Red Cross, 70% of the schools. Information from local sources suggest around 200 schoolchildren remain buried in the rubble.

Local information indicates that Jyeku airport, which opened last year, has received one supply plane. However, unconfirmed reports say the airport has since closed.

As well as Chinese troops, 500 monks from Serta Monastery have been sent to aid relief work in Jyekundo.

Chinese state media are reporting that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has arrived in the area to see the devastation first hand and see the relief efforts.

The US Geological Survey has registered the main quake as registering 6.9 on the Richter scale. The Chinese government continue to refer to the magnitude as 7.1.

Links to news reports (15 April)
BBC: Chinese rescuers step up search for quake survivors
Sky News: Rescuers Battle To Save China Quake Victims
The Telegraph: Thousands remain trapped as rescue operation is ramped up     
The Guardian: China earthquake death toll rises
NY Times: Cold May Worsen Toll in China Quake
CNN: China prepares to airlift hundreds from quake zone
Xinhua: Premier Wen arrives in quake-hit Yushu (note: Xinhua is the official news agency of the Chinese government)

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Press Release: Media reports must acknowledge Tibetans affected by Chinese earthquake
[15 April] Tibet Society is calling on all media outlets to report the Qinghai earthquake as affecting a Tibetan region and Tibetan people within the People's Republic of China. Click here to read full press release.

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Image Report - 14 April
[13.00 GMT, 14 April] Chinese state media are reporting 400 deaths and over 8,000 injuries. However, local residents who have been in touch with overseas contacts, fear thousands of Tibetans may have died, though there is still much confusion.

The epicentre of the earthquake was Rima village, near Jyeku (pronounced Cheku), in the Tibetan region of Jyekundo (also referred to as Kyegundo), a remote mountainous area part of Kham (one of the three traditional provinces of Tibet). The town of Jyeku (Ch: Jiegu or Gyegu), is in Yushu county, and is the government seat of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province, located near the border of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. It is approximately 800km south-west of Xining, the capital of Qinghai.

Reports from Tibetan contacts in the area indicate that 80% of the Tibetan buildings in Jyeku, including schools, have been destroyed.

Residents have reported that there are still people, including school children, trapped under collapsed buildings and that police and local people are helping to pull them out. There are no foreign NGOs operating on the ground so far, though the Chinese government is sending army troops to help with the rescue efforts.

Thousands of residents face overnight temperatures below freezing without shelter. There is no electricity and all the telephone lines are down, so contact with the outside world will become difficult once mobile phone batteries expire. It is also feared the water supply may soon be affected.

Rescue efforts are hampered by the remoteness of the region: Jyekundo (Yushu) is 500 miles from the nearest airport and roads in the region have been badly damaged.

Image Local people are shocked at the scale of the devastation, though it is believed the impact may be limited to the Yushu County area, with no major affects in the surrounding regions.

The quake was also felt in Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) TAP in Sichuan, and Chamdo (Ch: Qamdo) in the Tibet Autonomous Region, according to Xinhua.

Further reports on earthquake: BBC I Telegraph I Xinhua

(Note: The above photos were sent direct from the region by a Tibetan friend of one of our supporters. He has lost a friend and is deeply concerned about other members of his family.)

This tragic news has also shown the breadth of Chinese internet censorship. The Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese blog discussions on the earthquake were being blocked if the keyword "Qinghai" was used. On the popular Biadu website, searches for "Qinghai" in discussion forums returned the following statement:  Sorry, according to relevant laws, regulations and policies, this bar [discussion] is temporarily not open.
Wall Street Journal report on blogging

In reporting the disaster, The Economist said the Chinese authorities "are likely... to pull out all the stops... in order to show their concern for the welfare of Tibetans despite continuing harsh repression of Tibetan dissent. They will be somewhat relieved that the disaster did not happen in the Tibet Autonomous Region, given that this would have hugely complicated their handling of press coverage. Unlike Qinghai... the autonomous region is off-limits to foreign journalists except for rare, supervised visits."
The Economist report (includes map)

Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is home to over 250,000 people, over 95% of whom are Tibetans. Yushu county has a population of around 100,000, with around 21,700 farmers and herdsmen.

Jyeku is well known for its annual Jyekundo horse racing festival. The area is also well known for its water, with the source of the head of four major waterways: the Ngul-chu (Salween) Da-chu (Mekong) Dri-Chu (Yangtze) and Dza-Chu (Yalong) rivers in the area, hence the name traditionally given to Kham "Chuzhi gangdruk" (Four river and six ranges).

Historically, this area formed part of the five independent kingdoms of east Tibet, the Kingdom of Nangchen; Nangchen was formerly one of the five independent kingdoms of East Tibet. Its territory corresponds to the upper reaches of the five main Mekong feeder rivers: the Ngom-chu, Do-chu, Dza-chu, Tsi-chu and Kyang-chu.
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Further links
The Dalai Lama's message of condolence
ITSN: Appeal for the Dalai Lama to visit earthquake victims in Kyegundo
CTA: His Holiness the Dalai Lama wishes to visit quake-hit Tibet, says Kalon Tripa
Images from Yushu - via Chinese blog (please note graphic content, including dead bodies)
High Peaks Pure Earth: Reactions from Tibetan netizens
Human Rights Watch: How Not To Respond to an Earthquake (Sophie Richardson on why Beijing's shameful behavior after the last quake must not be repeated.)

Map links
Satellite images of devastation:
Image set 1 I Image set 2 I Image set 3
US Geological Survey: Map of area showing location of quakes
Google maps: Satellite image of area
(uses Chinese place names)
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Tibet Relief Fund has set up an emergency appeal fund that will help local people in the aftermath of this tragic disaster. Click here to donate.

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