Panicked Chinese Students Evacuated

Yanji, China

North Korea’s second nuclear test on May 25 shocked the world and caused the strongest tremor ever to hit the border area between China and North Korea.  People in the region feared that it was another huge earthquake like the recent one in Sichuan.  Fortunately, I had lived in Japan long enough to be familiar with earthquakes, so I did not panic.  However, most people living in the border area were clearly terrified.

For example, two local Chinese newspapers in Jilin Province, the Yanbian Daily News and the Jilin Newspaper, reported on the May 25th earthquake as follows.

“In some areas in Yanbian, buildings were damaged due to the earthquake.  At about 8:40 a.m. today, the Second Yasong Junior High School building in Longjin, China was suddenly hit by two tremors in succession, with each tremor lasting for about 3 seconds.  The tremors struck while most of the teachers and students were inside the building, and they witnessed desks, chairs and the entire building shaking.  The teachers immediately instructed the students to evacuate the building and go outside.”

The newspaper report continued: “The earthquake caused no deaths, but it caused major structural damage to the school building.  The concrete ceiling and some walls of the top floor of the building were cracked.

“The Longjin City government and associated departments dispatched personnel to the school to check how much damage the building had incurred and to decide on repair methods.  For safety, the school dismissed classes for the rest of the day.”

The Office of Science and Technology of Yanji released, at 10:25 a.m. on May 25, their official report on the tremor felt in Yanji the morning of May 25:

“At about 9:00 a.m. today, there was an obvious tremor in Yanji.  The seismographic records at Yanbian Earthquake Bureau indicated that a 4.5 magnitude earthquake occurred in North Korea (at longitude 129.1 degrees east, latitude 41.4 degrees north) at 8:54 a.m. today.  The earthquake’s epicenter was neither in Yanbian nor in Yanji” (Jilin Newspaper dated May 25, 2009.

Immediately after the news, North Korea announced that they had conducted an underground nuclear test.  The citizens in the affected area in China were furious when they discovered that the earthquake had been caused by North Korea’s underground nuclear test.  Why they did give no prior notice?  Those working for schools, governments and hospitals expressed extreme outrage.  The incident has caused obvious bad feelings toward North Korea.

The students of the elementary and junior high schools were evacuated in a panic, and when parents heard the news, the schools were swamped with calls from the worried parents.  The huge earthquake which struck Sichuan, China on May 12, 2008 destroyed many school buildings and caused severe damage.  The local government, no doubt recalling the recent Sichuan earthquake, immediately issued evacuation orders.

Furthermore, employees at hospitals in Longjin say that they frantically rushed to move their patients outside in response to evacuation orders issued by the Meteorological Office at about 10:00 a.m. on May 25.

“I cannot believe this happened.  For the first time in my 50 years, I have experienced an earthquake.  There has never been an earthquake in Yanbian, so I was terrified.”

“It’s beyond fear; I just have to laugh.”

“Stop it, North Korea!  Enough is enough.  They impose North Korean defectors on China, where they turn into robbers.  North Koreans are thugs!”

North Korean defectors are gaining a bad reputation among villagers all along the border area.  In fact, a number of Chinese policemen in charge of the crackdown have been stabbed to death, causing serious social disturbance in China.

Hospital employees, after learning that the earthquake uproar was caused by North Korea’s underground nuclear test, cannot quiet their anger.  The doctors and nurses faced great difficulties because of the emergency hospital evacuations.  Some injuries reportedly occurred during the evacuations. 

Meanwhile, a number of those involved in the construction of the school buildings have been in suspense, worrying that the earthquake might cause the buildings to collapse and reveal the corner-cutting measures used during construction.