Early warning success for the 1976 Tangshan Earthquake A "best practice" integrating the public and science

Jeanne-Marie Col1, Jean J. Chu2
1Department of Economic and Social Affairs, DC1-986, United nations, New York, 10017 USA.
Tel. : +1-212-963-8377, Fax: +1-212-963-2916,
E-mail: col@un.org
2Institute of Geology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, PO box 9825, Beijing 100029, China. Tel/Fax: +86-10-6237-5167,
E-mail: jchu@public3.bta.net.cn

Qinglong County administrators combined scientific data, public education, extensive preparation and speedy country-wide communications to prevent human tragedy in the 1976 Great Tangshan Earthquake (GTE). In a unique combination of science and public administration, public officials in this county prevented loss of life from the magnitude 7.8 earthquake while in surrounding counties more than 240,000 people were killed.

In Qinglong County, more than 180,000 buildings were destroyed by the GTE; over 7,000 of these totally collapsed. However, only one person died, and he died of a heart attack. Meanwhile, in the city of Tangshan and in all other surrounding counties, more than 240,000 people were crushed to death and 600,000 were seriously injured. Five hours after the earthquake, Qinglong County (115 km from Tangshan City) dispatched the first medical team to the disaster zone, and within a very short time organised and sent relief teams to Tangshan to help with rescue work and transport of the wounded.

The "UN Global Programme for the Integration of Public Administration and the Science of Disasters" is attempting to inform public administrators and scientists about the Qinglong event in order to help communities learn to save themselves from large natural disasters through precursor monitoring, communications and public education.