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China: Afterthoughts following the New Zealand earthquake

Like 7-year-old Julie Murphy getting her lemonade stand shut down earlier this summer, news of the earthquake last week in New Zealand inspired countless discussions all across the Chinese Internet.

For Sina blogger and Christchurch resident Sun Jiayang, this was her first earthquake:

看中国的报道,对新西兰的防震工作是赞赏有加。确实,和海地的地震级数差不多,没有一个人死亡,而且只有两个人受伤,不能不说是一个奇迹。一个是因为基督城基本上没有高楼,另外地震的时间也是刚好所有的娱乐场所都关门以后,如果再提前一小时,可能情况和现在就完全不同了。救援组织很快就各就各位了,也很打程度上给了市民很大的安慰,也没有出现什么恐慌的情况。除了饮用水比较缺以外。在这里,严重鄙视那些提高水价的商家。

Reading Chinese reports, all seem highly favorable of New Zealand's response to the earthquake. For sure, the scale of this earthquake was roughly the same as that of the one in Haiti; yet no one died, and only two were injured. You can't deny that this was a miracle. One reason being that Christchurch has nearly no tall buildings, another being that the earthquake took place just after entertainment venues closed for the night; one hour earlier and the situation would have been completely different. Rescue teams were quickly dispatched, a great relief to residents who showed no signs of panicking. Aside from drinking water being quite scarce, that is, and shops being despicable in raising the price of water so high.


More of Sun's photos can be seen here.

The minimal damage done and lack of deaths directly caused by the earthquake, writes Sina blogger Vast Digital Ocean, was less of a miracle than the result of solid preparation, from schools to building standards:

我们不会忘记,汶川地震发生后,倒塌的学校的建筑质量曾饱受垢病,有些混凝土结构里面,甚至用钢丝代替钢筋,尤其是那些不法建筑商的豆腐渣工程,让我们付出了惨重的代价。而在新西兰,建筑物如果出现问题,政府一定会追究建筑商、设计师,政府审查人员的责任。

We will never forget how, after the Wenchuan earthquake, it was discovered that schools which collapsed had previously been reported as unsound, that steel wire had even been used in place of steel bars in concrete bases; we paid a particularly devastating price as a result of those tofu-dreg schoolhouses. And in New Zealand, responsibility for any problems which do appear is firmly placed on the builders, architects and government personnel who gave approval.

另外,民众掌握多少抗震知识也很重要。据专家介绍,根据以往大地震的经验,90%的死亡人员都是在跑出门口之后因为墙倒屋塌重物坠落致死。在地震多发的日本,每年都在固定的防震演练,所以当地震来临时,民众才会不慌不乱。而目前我国面临的防震教育工作依然很重,防震知识的宣传缺乏持续性和广泛性,很多老百姓不清楚地震发生的原理,甚至宁愿去相信地震谣言。

Further, the degree to which the public is informed about protection against earthquakes is also key. According to experts, based on the experiences of past major earthquakes, 90% of deaths take place when people run outside and are crushed under collapsing walls and buildings. In earthquake-prone Japan, earthquake response drills are held every year so that when earthquakes do strike, the public won't panic. While China does at present place significant emphasis on earthquake response education, campaigns promoting earthquake response know-how lack both continuity and breadth. Many people aren't clear on the theories regarding how earthquakes occur, and thus are prone to believe earthquake rumors.

什么叫以人为本?新西兰地震的经验教训对此做出了充分的解答。有一个统计数字显示,近50年来级别相同的地震,在发展中国家造成的死亡人数要比发达国家高20倍以上。近年来,全球地震进入了活跃期,加强防震科普教育十分必要,而刚刚发生的新西兰地震,成了最生动的教材。

Just what does “people as the base” mean? The experience of the New Zealand earthquake gives us an ample explanation. One statistic suggests that of earthquakes over the past fifty years of similar scale, deaths incurred in developing nations have been more than 20 times higher than in developed nations. As the planet has entered an era of seismic activity in recent years, strengthening and spreading earthquake response education has become extremely important; this earthquake in New Zealand serves as a most telling instruction.

While not everyone has forgotten the lives lost in the devastating earthquake in Sichuan, in the two years since, have building standards improved? This is the angle Sina blogger ‘Traveler for Life’ takes in his September 7 post, ‘Can the zero-death miracle of New Zealand's earthquake be copied?’:

老实的新西兰总理却说:“我们非常幸运,没有人在地震中丧身。”总理把这奇迹归因于“幸运”,而没有上升到政府的英明决策云云,令我匪夷所思。憨厚如此却能当上富国的宰相,又使我着实的吃惊。

现在言归正传,新西兰的奇迹到底能不能复制?我的回答是悲观的。就像韩寒的人生不能复制一样,新西兰的奇迹也不可复制。

Speaking plainly, the prime minister of New Zealand said, ‘We were very lucky that no lives were lost in the earthquake.’ To see the prime minister attribute this miracle to “luck”, and not factor in wise government policies and what not, leaves me scratching my head. That someone so honest and straightforward can end up as head of a rich nation leaves me even further surprised.

Getting to my point, can or cannot New Zealand's miracle be copied? My response to that is pessimistic. Just like Han Han‘s life cannot be copied, nor can New Zealand's miracle.

为什么有如此悲观的态度哪?因为负面的刺激太多了,也就乐观不起来。我看到,安徽的建筑商“用竹签代替钢筋。”这种偷工减料的做法能抵御大地震的袭击吗?不能。更有甚者这两天媒体又披露,在六朝古都西安,建筑市场上,出现了被人为拉细的“瘦身”钢筋。而且据说西安的这种钢筋加工点达上百家之多。可谓是“多乎哉,不多也!”这种害人的钢筋用在楼市上,几家欢乐,几家愁。大地震袭来时,就是上帝也保佑不了我们。

Why is my view on this so pessimistic? Due to excess negative stimulus, I just can't be optimistic. When I see developers using bamboo sticks in place of steel bars in Anhui, I have to ask, are buildings where materials have been skimmed like this able to withstand an earthquake? No. Yet even this week, in the ancient dynastic capitol of Xi'an, steel bars on the building supplies market were discovered to have been pulled extra thin to save costs. And reportedly, these bars are being used in around a hundred different workplaces. With these deadly bars being used in the building of commercial housing, some people are laughing while others are distressed. When the next major earthquake strikes, even god won't be able to protect us.

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