Quake in China Hits Home at PA

Phillips Academy’s seismograph on the first floor of Gelb recorded tremors from China’s devastating earthquake on Monday, May 12. Peter Watt, Instructor in Physics and PA’s resident seismographer, estimated that the wave took one hour to travel from Sichuan Province to Andover. But the emotional shockwaves moved more quickly. “My grandparents live in Chonqing [a neighboring province of Sichuan],” said Annie Li ’10. “They could feel shaking, but the newer apartment buildings that they lived in are sturdy. For one or two days the phone lines were really bad, and my parents had to first hear that everything was okay from my aunt.” “My family has been really traumatized by the whole situation, especially my dad, who can’t watch the news at all, since it’s so sad,” she continued. The earthquake, which measured an 8.0 on the Richter scale, struck Wenchuan County near Chengdu in the Sichuan Province of Southwest China at 2:28 p.m. local time. It was the worst earthquake to hit China in the past three decades, ever since a 1976 earthquake killed over 250,000 people. The estimated death toll has been raised to over 70,000 as of May 20, including 40,000 confirmed dead and 32,000 missing. Most of the people missing are likely buried under rubble. Residents of Beijing and Shanghai were approximately 1,000 miles away from the earthquake epicenter, but were still able to feel the tremors. Iris Meng Li ’08, President of CTSA, said, “My family lives in Beijing and some relatives live in Shanghai. Even though they were way on the east coast, they could see objects moving and feel the shaking. Nothing was lost or broken.” “Working higher up in tall buildings intensified the shaking that they could feel,” added Li. Some of tallest office buildings in Shanghai and Beijing were evacuated immediately after the earthquake. Gongming Yan, Instructor in Chinese, said in Chinese, “My friend of nearly five years from SYA is from Chengdu. He has said that he is okay, but I do not know if any of his family members were hurt. His family lives in Mianyang, one of the cities hit hardest by the earthquake in the south-west province.” “My friend could feel the building shaking. Some simple buildings fell, but there is less destruction in the city, since the buildings are concrete. People are all very strong,” continued Yan. Students and faculty at Andover quickly took action to become involved in the earthquake relief. Annie Li started out by simply asking for donations in UnCommons until Aya Murata, Advisor to Asian Students, directed her to Travis Conley, Chair of Chinese Department. Conley said, “Right after the earthquake, students and faculty were emailing one another to figure out how we could do something at our school. Many of the [earthquake relief] events were underway even before they were organized under the umbrella group Phillips Academy for Natural Disaster Aid [PANDA].” PANDA, which consists of the Chinese Department and many students clubs, is hosting a series of fundraising events throughout the next two weeks to support the earthquake. PANDA also supports the recent cyclone natural disaster in Myanmar, Burma. All proceeds go to China Red Cross, American Red Cross and The Amity Foundation for the natural disaster victims. The group name ‘PANDA’ is significant because Chengdu, the biggest city close to the earthquake epicenter, is home to the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base, one of the most important centers in the world for the captive conservation of the Giant Panda. Three giant pandas went missing after the earthquake hit. Five staff members were killed, and all of the preserve’s panda houses were seriously damaged. PANDA hosted a Candlelight Vigil on Wednesday. Li said, “Fundraising is more for supporting the families who suffered in the earthquake. We as Chinese or humans are suffering with them, so the Candlelight Vigil is more of a consolation for ourselves and to pray for the victims. It is a ritual event instead of material support.” On Thursday, PANDA held an arts and crafts sale for jewelry, fair trade handbags and handmade cards. Jennifer Fan ’09, President of Ink Oasis and creator of the PANDA logo, said, “People can write encouraging words to victims, and then students from the Chinese Department can translate the messages. I will bring all the cards to students in Shanxi this summer.” The Ping Pong Club will host a charity tournament today on Friday, May 23, and the International Club will host a dance and food festival this weekend. Donation boxes in UnCommons and the OWHL library will be available until the end of May. Local communities surrounding Andover have also been actively involved in earthquake relief as well. Sharon Pei, Instructional Librarian, said, “I have received tons of emails from a local Chinese Language School where I am teaching regarding this earthquake. All of the Chinese Language schools in the greater Boston area have responded very actively with fundraising.” “There will be a MIT fund raising concert on May 25 and a Walk for China Earthquake Relief on May 31. Plus, there are many more activities that you may get from reading local Chinese newspapers,” continued Pei. Residents in China remain panicked over the possibility of more aftershocks. China was struck with 149 aftershocks with a magnitude of 4.0 or higher following the first earthquake. The largest aftershock of a 5.9 magnitude struck on May 18 in Jiangyou, killing three and injuring 1,006. Two facilities in Shifang continue to leak sulphuric acid and ammonia due to aftershocks. Shifang is located about 100km from the epicenter of the first earthquake. The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) has reported that the water quality of Shifang’s nearby Shiting River is normal thus far. Landslides caused by the aftershocks have blocked many roads and railways. Chinese citizens are distressed over the large number of children who died in the earthquake. The Chinese government is investigating why so many school buildings collapsed. The government plans to severely punish anyone responsible for sub-par construction. As of May 19, China made great progress in restoring power. Electricity production and distribution was returned to about 80 percent of what it was before the earthquake. Tim Wong ’09 said, “I appreciate the fact that the Chinese government has been fairly liberal in allowing journalists to propagate the news [relating to the earthquake]. It shows that the government is starting to open up.” Stephanie Xu ’09 said, “My family’s been discussing [the earthquake] for days, and we think that even though China is talking rather bombastically about its rescue efforts, they simply aren’t following through. Most of the people buried underground were not rescued, and China was not prepared for this kind of disaster, nor is it adequately prepared for disaster relief.” Fan plans to continue her endeavor to help earthquake victims this summer. Sponsored by the Winton Volunteership award, Fan will visit Shanxi, China, which is just north of Sichuan Province. “Initially, I applied to visit the cave schools – literally, schools built in caves – in Shanxi and do some research there. After the earthquakes, lots of caves have collapsed and there is erosion. If it is still safe for me to go, then I plan to prolong my visit to channel some of my efforts to the rebuilding activities in addition to visiting the cave schools,” said Fan.