Earthquake Facts

China's Great Quake of 1976

china earthquake

China, the world's most populous country, has suffered some of the greatest natural disasters, including floods, famines, and earthquakes. The deadliest known quake in history shook China in 1556, taking about 830,000 lives. Four hundred twenty years later, on the morning of July 28th, 1976, China was rocked by a quake that was almost as deadly.

At 3:42 am, millions of people in northeastern China's Hopeh Province were awakened by a loud roar. An M8.2 earthquake shook the ground violently on that rainy Wednesday morning. The quake's epicenter was in a highly populated area: Tangshan, a coal-mining city with about a million residents. Buildings crumbled so quickly they appeared to be “made of cards,” a survivor later reported. Coal tunnels beneath Tangshan collapsed, burying miners working the night shift. Pits created by the collapsing mines swallowed up a train and a hospital.

Beijing, the capital of China, and Tianjin, another major Chinese city, were also damaged by the quake. Across the nearby countryside, dams collapsed, railroad tracks were wrecked, and trees were uprooted. Just 15 hours following the first earthquake, another major quake struck. Fortunately, most people who had survived the first quake were camping in fields and on streets, where they were safe from further building collapses. It is believed that 750,000 people died in China's great quake of July 28th, 1976. As with any disaster of this magnitude, it is difficult to know the true number of casualties.

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