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FLASH ALERT: EARTHQUAKE IN SICHUAN PROVINCE, CHINA

Alyssa Schmidt, Jennifer Radlinsky, Breyona Woods, Emergency Management, Health, and Hazards (EMH2) Team

Justin Maurina, Shachi Gokhale, Jashanpreet Malhi, Editors; Demetrios Giannakaris, Senior Editor

September 6, 2022


The Epicenter of Earthquake[1]


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT for Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake occurred shortly after noon, killing at least 65 people and leaving 16 missing individuals. The earthquake triggered landslides in the area currently under lockdown from a COVID-19 outbreak. With residents confined to their homes, the death toll will likely rise among those unable to escape the initial quake and the landslides that followed. Sichuan is prone to earthquakes because it is located on the tectonic plates intersect. Aftershocks will likely occur, causing more damage and injuries. The quake’s severity will likely produce an increased death toll and damage critical infrastructure, like communications and electrical systems.[2]


CTG is on HIGH alert for the unfolding emergency in Sichuan Province, as landslides will likely occur following the earthquake. There is a HIGH likelihood of citizens trapped in collapsed structures needing emergency assistance due to future structural collapses and instability from the aftershocks. Humanitarian aid will VERY LIKELY be required as lockdowns were implemented following COVID-19 outbreaks.


On September 5, 2022, an earthquake struck the city of Luding near Chengdu in Sichuan Province, China. It happened shortly after noon local time and had a magnitude of 6.8 on the Richter scale. This was the strongest quake in this region since 2017 when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Aba prefecture. Shaking was felt as far as 125 miles away, with 1.55 million people living within 60 miles of the epicenter. Landslides were triggered by the earthquake, damaging homes and infrastructure. Rescue efforts are continuing as officials assess the damage. Damages to homes and buildings from the landslides will require reparations.[3]

The earthquake, landslides, and aftershocks will likely collapse structures, likely causing collateral damage to surrounding buildings and infrastructure. Roads and bridges will likely weaken, likely leading to costly repairs and time-consuming projects requiring government funding to complete. Communications systems will likely be temporarily unusable, likely hindering rescue efforts. Emergency services will likely have increased wait times for assistance, likely increasing the mortality rate.

As a result of the natural disaster likely creating population displacement, facilities will likely lack adequate medical resources and clean water, likely resulting in improper sanitation. Rapid transmission of COVID-19 will likely lead to outbreaks in overcrowded shelters. This hazard, alongside the COVID-19 outbreak, will very likely overwhelm hospitals, likely increasing wait times and delaying nonessential treatments. Communicable disease surveillance and programs will likely be disrupted, likely impacting normal operations.

CTG and the EMH2 team recommend that emergency services work to rescue individuals promptly and facilitate hospital transport. Individuals should follow proper COVID-19 protocols to limit the spreading of the virus while seeking safe shelter. Individuals will likely require assistance with temporary housing and food from the Chinese government and humanitarian organizations until the impacted area is deemed safe and reparations commence. Buildings and homes should implement building codes and checks to ensure safety. The EMH2 team will continue to monitor the Sichuan Province for developments.

CTG assesses that the current threat climate is HIGH due to the likelihood of increased landslides, aftershocks, and damaged infrastructure. The mortality rate will VERY LIKELY increase following this incident and the damaged roads will likely hinder emergency services. Terrorist groups and criminal organizations will likely take advantage of the impacted areas, likely leading to increased crime.


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[1] The Epicenter of Earthquake by Jennifer Radlinsky via Google Earth

[2] Southwest China quake leaves 21 dead, triggers landslides, Associated Press, September 2022

https://apnews.com/article/science-china-earthquakes-ccef34193e089fe8dc0072ff1f7061a0

[3] Earthquake in China's Sichuan kills more than 30, shakes provincial capital, Reuters, September 2022 https://www.reuters.com/world/china/chinas-sichuan-hit-by-provinces-strongest-earthquake-since-2013-2022-09-05/

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