The May 12, 2008 Earthquake in Sichuan, China

Because of the great interest in the recent tragic earthquake in China, the Boston College Educational Seismology Project (BC-ESP) is providing this public discussion forum regarding all aspects of the earthquake. This discussion forum is open to anyone who would like to discuss the earthquake and its effects, comment on the content of this forum, suggest ways to donate to relief efforts, and/or to add any links with information on this earthquake that you would like to share with others. Also feel free to invite others into this discussion forum who might be interested in following the story of the earthquake, especially students of all ages who are interested in learning about earthquakes.

It is truly fascinating that it is possible to record earthquakes at great distances using seismographs. As a seismologist, I often feel challenged to find an appropriate balance between conveying scientific information about “interesting” earthquakes, communicating my amazement at the incredible power of natural forces in the Earth, and not forgetting about the human tragedy caused by large earthquakes.

Even though I am a seismologist who thinks about earthquakes all the time, like most people I am still ovehwhelmed by how devastating this earthquake was. At 60,000+ fatalities, this is a deadly quake of historical proportions. For some perspective: Since 1900, there were less than 10 earthquakes in the world that have exceeded 60,000 fatalities.

  • Click here to see the BC-ESP seismograms of this earthquake.
  • Click here for general information about this earthquake.
  • Click here to read, edit, expand upon, improve, and/or correct the Wikipedia article about this earthquake.
  • Click here for information on how to help the earthquake victims.
  • For general information about mitigation of the tragic effects of earthquakes, see GeoHazards International, an agency devoted to reducing death and suffering due to earthquakes and other natural hazards.

The tragedy caused by this earthquake teaches us humility in the face of the power of natural forces beyond our control, but it also teaches us that there are things that can be done to save lives and mitigate the effects of future large earthquakes. Through improved earthquake hazard assessment, upgrading earthquake resistance of buildings, and of course education about earthquakes and their effects, it is possible to limit the damage and suffering caused by earthquakes when they occur.

To submit comments on any topic related to this discussion forum:

Scroll to the bottom of this page and type in your comment in the box below where it says Leave a comment.

Then click on Submit Comment under that box.

9 thoughts on “The May 12, 2008 Earthquake in Sichuan, China

  1. Where is the international outcry for aid to support the Chinese victims of the earthquake that they were only to happy to provide Burma who turned it down. This has to be one of the worst tragedy’s this decade. Am I missing something did they not qualify for humanitarian aid. I couldn’t even find it on this official charity’s list. I for one was astounded by the courage and support of the both the Chinese people and their government and somewhat ashamed of the international response compared to the scale of this disaster.

  2. The seismicity of central and eastern Asia is caused by the northward movement of the India plate at a rate of 5cm/year and it’s collision with Eurasia, resulting in the uplift of the Himalaya and Tibetan plateau and associated earthquake activity. This deformation also results in the extrusion of crustal material from the high Tibetan Plateau in the west towards the Sichuan Basin and southeastern China.

  3. We should join a discussion forums with a chat room, because we need information. The best benefits about using a forum or chat room is that you can talk about any problem you have and ask any questions you might have in your mind.

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