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Warning System Boosts Earthquake Defences in China

A nationwide earthquake early warning network will begin operating by the end of next year. The network, which has been under development by the China Earthquake Administration (CEA) since 2018, will alert people more than 20 kilometres from a quake’s epicentre a few seconds before the destructive seismic waves arrive, the administration said at a news conference last month.

The administration has built more than 15,000 monitoring stations across the country, and warning signals will cover more than 3,000 schools, dozens of railways and other vital spots. Earthquake early-warning signals play an important role in disaster reduction. Within a few seconds, residents in places kilometres away from the epicentre can avoid danger and evacuate to safe places.

The warning system detects the first waves of an earthquake which are weak and cause little destruction and then sends out a warning several seconds before the second waves, which can forcefully shake the ground but arrive later.

Earthquake warnings and forecasting are different. The forecast is carried out before an earthquake’s occurrence and remains a worldwide challenge. However, warning technology is developing rapidly and works effectively in reducing disasters’ impact.

China Earthquake Administration

In response to alerts, authorities will deal with major infrastructure, engineering projects and important facilities. The responses include emergency braking of high-speed trains and the rapid closure of gas pipelines.

In the past three years, CEA has piloted monitoring stations in Beijing and Tianjin and the provinces of Hebei, Sichuan, Yunnan and Fujian. The construction of monitoring stations has been completed in all six regions, and they have been put into trial operation. Residents in those places can receive early warning messages via television and apps on their phones.

Warnings sent out by the system for three quakes in Yunnan this year helped with disaster prevention. They were a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Yangbi, a 5.1 magnitude one in Shuangbai and a 5.0 magnitude one in Yingjiang. About 14,000 residences received alerts on television seven seconds after the first tremors in Yangbi on May 21.

The warning reduced fear among the public and, facilitated by the warning, the government was able to instantly launch an earthquake emergency response. The warning system needs to act quickly and accurately. Otherwise, it will not aid disaster response. After years of efforts, China has managed to lead in technology worldwide.

In some areas, China has set up monitoring stations at an average of every 12 km, which can warn people 20-plus km from the epicentre within six seconds of an earthquake’s first tremors. The period of time in which the system can warn in advance is among the best in the worldwide warning system.

To mitigate natural disasters, China has been inventing technologies, such as drones. As reported by OpenGov Asia, China’s Wing Loong series of unmanned aircraft have long been known for their strong combat capability, good performance in battles and popularity among foreign buyers. Now, their manufacturer, the State-owned defence conglomerate Aviation Industry Corp of China, said the powerful machines are not only suited for theatre reconnaissance and precision strikes but can also serve a host of civilian purposes.

The most recent example, which involved a Wing Loong 2H that provided communication signals to people besieged by floods in Henan province, has gone viral in Chinese media and social networks, with internet users calling it a magic drone that helps to save lives.

The remotely controlled aircraft used a mini signal transmission device to allow people trapped in flooded areas to connect to the China Mobile network, enabling them to report their situation, call for help or coordinate evacuation work. AVIC Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute had designed and built several civilian models based on the Wing Loong 2 and Wing Loong 10 combat drones.

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