Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Some of the first stories coming out about the China earthquake

HIV, Bird Flu, Tibet, Earthquake... Whenever disaster strikes in China
the first reaction is to censor it.


Levine said that the Chinese media was censored due to the earthquake.
"The press channels were shut down, and the television was darkened
just like during the incidents in Tibet. We are trying to learn the
details from those people who know English, but we can't really
understand the extent of the event."


In the race to develop every facet of Chinese society the government
has overseen the construction of tens of thousands of buildings that
fall below even the most basic safety requirements. Officials in
Sichuan province, the picturesque backwater at the epicentre of the
earthquake, were probably encouraged to throw up hundreds of cheap,
dangerous buildings in order to impress party bosses in Beijing.

Even a cursory visit to a major city in China reveals the shoddy
quality of so much of the recent building work. The desire to design
and construct cityscapes which will compete with Paris, New York and
London mean local planning commissions frequently sacrifice quality
materials for the sake of a flashy facade or extra height.

I lived in one such building in Beijing and it literally broke in half
while I was in it - an enormous fissure split it from top to bottom,
prompting the floor to buckle underfoot. Typically these building
projects are undertaken before anyone has calculated whether people can
afford to live or work in them. The skyscrapers which have shot up in
Shanghai, for example, are frequently empty.


A powerful earthquake that shook southwestern China did not appear to
have caused major damage in the Sichuan provincial of capital Chengdu,
near the epicenter, state television reported on Monday.

A reporter for CCTV news in Chengdu. over 1,500 km from Beijing, said
residents of the city had poured out onto the streets following the
quake, measured at between 7.5 and 7.8 by various agencies, but that
public transport and electricity supplies remained operational.

Asked if anyone had been hurt in Chengdu, the reporter said: 'All
appears to be fine.'


US examining satellite images of China quake area

The official said the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA,
was assessing high-altitude imagery as a routine step taken whenever a
natural disaster or another major event occurs someplace in the world.

U.S. spy satellites and other high-altitude surveillance platforms can
produce highly detailed pictures of damage to roads, railways, tunnels,
ports and coastlines.

The defense official declined to comment on what the images of China

NGA is part of the Pentagon and analyzes overhead pictures from U2 spy
planes and Defense Department satellites.


Earthquake coverage on Chinese TV

- News channels from Taiwan, which we are watching in alternation with
the mainland coverage on CCTV, have extensive video footage from
Chengdu, estimates of casualties, etc. So far no on-scene video footage
that I've seen on CCTV-1, and no casualty figures. (The state news
agency, Xinhua, is saying that 7600 people, or more, may have died.)
Channel-surfing, we see that the German, Japanese, and Korean networks
are also running Chengdu footage. It could have been on CCTV when I
wasn't watching, but it's certainly not featured. CCTV is mainly
running telephone interviews with correspondents in Sichuan and
talking-head analyses in the studio. Possible background: controlling
coverage within China until being sure exactly how the story should be
presented. (Update: just saw a 20-second video clip from Chengdu on


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