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Last Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
China marks Tangshan earthquake
Police lay wreaths at the monument commemorating the Tangshan quake
Tangshan has now been completely rebuilt
Commemorations have been held in Tangshan in China to mark 30 years since a massive earthquake devastated the city.

Over 1,000 people attended a ceremony to remember those who died when the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck in the early morning of 28 July 1976.

About 240,000 people died, according to official figures, and over 90% of the city's buildings were flattened.

The earthquake occurred directly under Tangshan at a depth of 8km (5 miles).

A magnitude 7.1 aftershock 15 hours later caused further destruction and killed many people trapped in collapsed buildings.

"The great Tangshan earthquake was one of the most devastating disasters the world has known, but the heroism of the Tangshan people refused to die," Tangshan Communist Party leader Zhang He said at a memorial service in the city.

He praised the "unflappable spirit of struggle" which had helped the city to rebuild, Xinhua news agency reported.


Survivors of the deadly earthquake told the BBC what they remembered of the day.

"I was sleeping in a small room with my wife and children when the earthquake started," said Mr Zhang.

Map of China

"We broke a window and managed to get outside. On the street I saw lots of damaged houses and dead bodies."

Another resident, Mr Wang, went into Tangshan with supplies of food and water.

"Lots of the vehicles leaving Tangshan were carrying injured people and dead bodies," he said.

"When I reached the city centre it was dawn. I knew Tangshan very well but I could hardly recognise it... It was unimaginable."


Despite the devastation in the area, news of the disaster emerged slowly, with the official death toll only released in 1979. The Chinese government sent relief supplies and troops to the region, but refused offers of international aid.

There has also been controversy over whether officials ignored scientists' predictions that an earthquake was imminent.

Rebuilding work in Tangshan in 1976
China sent troops but refused international aid

In Qianlong country, 70km from Tangshan, there were very few fatalities even though thousands of buildings were flattened.

Officials had treated warnings from local seismologists seriously and had ordered people to work and sleep outside, minimising casualties when the earthquake struck.

The disaster coincided with a period of turmoil for the Chinese leadership.

Premier Zhou Enlai had died in January 1976 and by July Communist leader Mao Tse-tung was very ill. He died two months later and the earthquake came to be seen by many as an omen for his death and the end of an era.

Tangshan has now been completely rebuilt and is home to steel and mining industries.

But many residents are still grieving, including Li Xuemei, who lost eight members of her family.

"Things have really changed for the better in Tangshan over the last years, but still on 28 July we will not be celebrating our survival, we will only commemorate the dead," she told AFP.

Timeline: China
20 May 06 |  Country profiles
Country profile: China
24 May 06 |  Country profiles

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