This Day in History: Haicheng Earthquake Prediction World First

By Ned Kelly, February 5, 2021

3 0

On February 4, 1975, an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter Scale rocked Haicheng, Liaoning province. Thankfully the death count was low, Chinese authorities having ordered an enforced evacuation of homes in what is widely cited as the first earthquake successfully predicted.

A study of seismic activity in the previous months and a number of foreshocks the previous day led to the decision, apparently, a move authorities credited with keeping the death toll under 300, where tens of thousands of fatalities might have been expected. Or so the story goes...

Occuring as it did during the Cultural Revolution, record keeping was disordered. And the failure of officials to predict the devastating 7.8 magnitude Tangshan Earthquake a year later, which killed some 240,000 people, led many to question the the prediction claim (belief in earthquake prediction became an element of ideological orthodoxy that distinguished true party liners from right wing deviationists).

haicheng-earthquake.JPG

In 2006, a group of international scientists were given access to records and key witnesses. Their report found that there was no official short-term prediction, although there were by individual scientists, “a blend of confusion, empirical analysis, intuitive judgment and good luck,” and that “it was the foreshocks alone that triggered the final decisions of warning and evacuation.”

The light loss of life - which they set higher than 300 at 2,041 - was attributed to a number of fortuitous circumstances, including earthquake education in previous months, the fact it occurred at 7.36pm, when people were neither working nor asleep, and the durable style of housing construction in the area.

So perhaps not such an earth-shattering event as was previously claimed...


For more This Day in History stories, click here.

more news

This Day in History: When Albert Einstein Came to Shanghai

On arrival the Swedish consulate reiterated that he had officially been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.

This Day in History: China’s First KFC Opens by Tiananmen Square

On November 12, 1987, KFC made its debut in China near Qianmen in Beijing.

This Day in History: The Birth of Sun Yat-sen, Father of Modern China

To this day, more than 150 years after his birth, Sun is one of the most revered political figures among Chinese people.

This Day in History: The Coup of Empress Dowager Cixi

The 1861 power grab of the woman who went on to control the Qing Dynasty.

This Day in History: The Death of Puyi, China’s Last Emperor

Puyi was only 3 years old when he sat on the 'Dragon Throne.'

This Day in History: China’s First Man in Space

On this day in 2003, Yang Liwei endured a 21-and-a-half-hour flight, completing 14 orbits of the Earth

This Day in History: Old Shanghai’s Biggest Ever Gangster Heist

The life and crimes of Elly 'the Swiss' Wilder.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at Thats_Shanghai for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Shanghai With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Subscribe

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Shanghai!

Visit the archives