On Monday May 12, 2008, an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck the Chinese province of Sichuan. The epicenter was in Wenchuan County, 80 km (50 mi) west-northwest of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. There is widespread destruction in Sichuan and nearby provinces.
The earthquake was felt as far away as Beijing (1,500 km away) and Shanghai (1,700 km away). Earlier in the year, a 6.9 magnitude quake took place in Tibet in January, while March saw a 7.3 magnitude quake in Yutian.
The Sichuan earthquake has killed tens of thousands of people (69,197 as of July 6, mainly in Sichuan ), while the official tally of injured stood at 374,176, with another 18,340 people listed as missing. Nearly 14 million people have been evacuated or relocated.
There is evidence of damage to almost 400 dams (most of them small) in the region. However, Chinese officials have been seeking to reasssure the world that the Three Gorges Dam (in nearby Hubei province) is safe. As the result of the magnitude 8.0 earthquake and the many strong aftershocks, many rivers became blocked by large landslides, which resulted in the formation of about 30 "quake lakes" and “natural dams”, potentially endangering the lives of people if the water is to build up, and then break downstream.
China has mobilized about 150,000 military personnel in relief efforts, and taken the rare step of accepting foreign aid. China has allocated 70 billion yuan for disaster relief and reconstruction. Donations from companies and individuals exceed 16 billion yuan (on May 27).
Sichuan (Szechuan) is situated in western China with its capital at Chengdu. The province is a popular tourist destination, housing several Unesco world heritage sites including panda reserves and natural scenery tied to Chinese folklore. Last year, the province's tourism revenue was 121.7 billion yuan, the seventh highest among the provinces. Sichuan received 185.7 million domestic travelers in 2007, accounting for 11.5 percent of the country's domestic travelers.
The Tourism Administration of China made the announcement that all travel services must stop organising any tour groups to Sichuan province for safety’s sake, while those travellers who are in Sichuan areas should be helped to leave as early as possible. The administration also requested tourists refrain from visiting these areas in the near future.
The conditions in Sichuan, especially in the areas around Chengdu, Wolong and Jiuzhaigou are not good for travelling. Chongqing however has had no problem, so Yangtze River Cruises are still available.
According to preliminary estimates, the tourist sights in Beichuan region and Dujiangyan Tourist Region such as the Qingcheng Mountain Tourist Zone and Fuhu Monastery were badly damaged and some ancient buildings have collapsed including the Erwang Temple and the Qing Dynasty Torii of Libai’s former residence. Fortunately, the Dujiangyan Irrigationg Project was only slightly affected and still can function normally.
Ape King Cave Natural Scenic Area, Thousand Buddha Mountain and Douhui Mountain are the most seriously damaged attractions.
Fortunately, the buildings of the Sanxingdui Museum were only slightly affected and the cultural relics remain intact. The museum has been closed for examination and reparation from May 16th.
The Wolong National Nature Reserve was badly damaged. But, most giant pandas are reported to be safe after the earthquake. Bamboo, the pandas’ primary source of food, is a major agricultural product in the region, but whether it can be supplied to the pandas despite infrastructure damage is open to question.
There are no significant damage reports from the Jiuzhaigou scenic areas. However, the roads from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou are blocked due to the earthquake and are expected to remain that way for some time.
Mountain Emei and Leshan Giant Buddha are free from any impact of the deadly earthquake because they are located far away from the epicenter. The facilities in Mountain Emei including cable car, hotels, transport and other facilities all function normally. Roads between the mountain and Chengdu, Chongqing are normal.
Mount Qingcheng and Dujiangyan have been just partly damaged, while the Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong scenic spots have suffered no damage in the earthquake.