China has begun building a comprehensive earthquake early warning system to give people a better chance of escaping collapsing buildings and to direct rescue efforts to where they’re needed most.
The early warning system will help people take emergency measures to escape, warning large infrastructure facilities such as reservoirs, high-speed railways, and nuclear power stations to launch emergency response plans–
Authorities will build or upgrade more than 5,000 seismic stations, and set up a national centre of early warning and reporting, according to the Sichuan Provincial Earthquake Administration.
The move comes after the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province, which killed more than 69,000 and left approximately 4.8 million homeless.
More than 18,000 are still missing as a result of the magnitude 8 earthquake, whose epicentre was in Wenchuan County, home to around 15 million people.
According to Chinese state-owned news agency Xinhua, the new early warning system will report the intensity of earthquakes with magnitude 5 or higher in two to five minutes after the quake.
It will map the spatial distribution of the seismic intensity within 15 minutes, and even determine the conditions of casualties and direct economic losses resulting from the quake 30 minutes after it occurs.
Details of how the system works were not given but, according to Xinhua, the rapid reporting system will help identify the worst-hit area and the effects of disaster, supporting rescue and relief work.
The early warning system will also help people take emergency measures to escape, and will warn large infrastructure facilities such as reservoirs, high-speed railways, and nuclear power stations to launch emergency response plans.
Photograph: Inhabited building in Dujiangyan City, Sichuan Province, destroyed by the 2008 earthquake (Miniwiki.org/Wikimedia Commons)