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: Weibo Launched in China

Weibo’s start came at a turbulent time as both Twitter and Fanfou were temporarily blocked in June 2009.

This Day in History: Bloody Saturday, Shanghai's Darkest Day

New York Times bestselling author's new book on the 1937 Japanese bombing of the city.

This Day in History: The 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony

A look back at the first ever Olympics to be hosted in China.

This Day in History: Founding of the Communist Party of China

The Communist Party of China turns 100 this month, founded in Shanghai in July 1921.

Travel Code History Reduced from 14 to 7 Days

China's travel code has undergone its second change in a little a over a week.

This Day in History: China-India Nathu La Pass Reopens for Trade

The historic Nathu La Pass in the Himalayan mountains reopened for trade after 44 years.

This Day in History: Seoul Falls to North Korea

The conflict between South Korea (ROK) and North Korea (DPRK) has lasted for over 70 years.

This Day in History: Artist Chiang Yee Honored with Blue Plaque

Only the third blue plaque honoring a Chinese person.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

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

7 Days in China With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Subscribe

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Magazines!

Visit the archives