China - Earthquake OCHA Situation Report No. 2

Situation Report
Originally published

Ref. OCHA/GVA - 2000/0042
OCHA Situation Report No. 2
China - Earthquake
7 March 2000

Status of National and International Emergency Response to the January 2000 and Findings of the UNDAC mission to Yunnan Province


1. On 15 January 2000, two successive earthquakes, measuring 5.9 and 6.5 on the Richter scale, hit Yunnan province in southwest China. The epicentre was five kilometres west of the Guantun township in Yao’an county. The first shock of 40 seconds occurred at 06.06 hrs local time (at 22.06 hrs GMT on 14 January). The second one lasting 50 seconds followed one and a half hours later at 07.37 hrs local time. A number of aftershocks measuring up to 4.9 on the Richter scale disturbed the affected area.

2. Yunnan province is situated in southwest China to the east of the Tibetan Plateau, along a fault line that runs south into Laos and Vietnam. It is one of the areas of China most prone to natural disasters all year round. The province has a population of 42 million people in an area of 390,000 sq. km, of which 90% is mountainous. The majority of the people are farmers.


3. 13 counties in Yunnan province were severely affected, especially Yao’an, Nanhua, Dayao, Yongren and Xiangyun counties. The earthquakes killed 7 people, and severely injured 99. Another 2,429 sustained injuries to a lesser degree, and overall 1.76 million people were affected. The number of casualties was drastically lower than it might have been because people left their houses during the first smaller earthquake and had not yet returned when the second stronger one occurred. More than 41,000 houses collapsed, leaving 92,479 people homeless. Many Government institutions, schools, hospitals, factories, mines, water conservation facilities, electric power and communication facilities were damaged.

4. Most residential houses in the rural areas are built of mud brick set in a wooden frame. In general, the frames and roofs are sufficiently shock absorbent to withstand medium earthquakes, whereas the walls crack or collapse. In larger towns and cities, brick and reinforced concrete are used as construction materials. Cracks were observed in some of the brick buildings. Although the larger buildings did not actually collapse, they came out far from unscathed. A construction code system was recently instituted, but due to non-adherence to this code, some of the more recently constructed buildings in the affected areas were severely damaged.

Buildings Reported Collapsed or Damaged (findings of the UNDAC team)

Yunnan Province +
Chuxiong prefecture ++
Yao’an County ++
Dayao County ++
Health facilities
Others (public admin. etc)
+ : figures from the provincial government, including only severely damaged buildings
++: figures from the prefecture and the counties, including both severely and slightly damaged buildings
N/A: not available

National Response

5. Emergency rescue and relief work was immediately carried out under the supervision of local leaders. The local emergency relief effort was further strengthened by the timely arrival of relief supplies and emergency grants provided by the central and provincial governments. In total more than a quarter of a billion CHY (approx. USD 30 million) in relief goods and cash contributions were donated.

6. At national level, the Deputy Prime Ministry led a group of top Government officials on a field mission to the affected counties to assess the disaster and relief situation. The Ministry of Civil Affairs (MOCA) dispatched a team to assess the impact of the quakes and to support the relief work of the local governments. The MOCA also sent 2,500 tents to the disaster affected areas immediately after the tremors. Ministries from the central Government sent more than CHY 166 million (USD 20 million) for relief activities and initial rehabilitation of schools and reservoirs.

7. To cope with this disaster, the provincial government took the lead role in initiating and carrying out disaster response activities while relying on the support of central and local government. A high level disaster response group was set up to supervise and coordinate relief activities, headed by the governor of Yunnan province. The vice-governor commandeered soldiers to carry out rescue and relief work in the affected areas. The provincial government allocated CHY 38 million (USD 4.6 million) in relief funds and sent 1,550 tents and 2,000 quilts to the disaster areas. It also mobilized CHY 7.7 million (USD 930,000) and HKD 1.38 million (USD 180,000), in addition to a large amount of relief items, including quilts, clothes, sleeping bags, food and medicines.

8. In addition, the prefectural and county governments provided manpower, cash and in-kind support for relief purposes.

IFRC/NGO Response

9. The Yunnan Red Cross distributed relief goods valued at CHY 210,000 (USD 25,000), including food and tents. Funds from the Hong Kong Red Cross totalling CHY 200,000 (USD 24,000) were used for the purchase of rice, quilts, coats and tents.

10. OXFAM, Hong Kong donated CHY 670,000 (USD 81,000) for the purchase and distribution of quilts, plastic sheeting, tents and children’s clothes. The Hong Kong branch of the Salvation Army distributed 128 tons of rice, 3,084 sleeping bags and 1,048 pieces of winter clothes.

International Response

11. On 26 January the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched an international appeal for CHF 2,798,000 (USD 1,700,000) to assist 80,000 beneficiaries for three months with food, clothing, cooking sets and quilts. The Federation released CHF 300,000 (USD 183,000) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to cover the cost of procuring 20,000 quilts.

UNDAC Mission

12. On learning of the tremors, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) contacted the United Nations Resident Coordinator (UN RC) in Beijing, China, and on the strength of information ascertained through this link a situation report was issued on 17 January. In spite of the fact that the Chinese Government did not appeal for international assistance, it nevertheless endorsed the UN RC’s request for UNDAC assistance, and on this basis OCHA dispatched a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team to China from 11 to 26 February.

13. The objective of the mission was to undertake an assessment of the overall situation and needs in Yunnan province and to learn from Chinese authorities about their general disaster management structures and procedures and recommend areas for possible improvement. The UNDAC team was comprised of 4 members led by the OCHA Regional Disaster Response Advisor for Asia based in Kobe. In the course of the mission the team was briefed in Beijing by the UN RC, the UN Disaster Management Team (UNDMT), IFRC and the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs (MOCA). With the participation of WHO, WFP, the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and UNDP, a joint UNDAC/UN inter-agency field assessment mission was carried out from 17 to 20 February to two of the worst affected counties (Yao’an and Dayao) in Chuxiong prefecture of Yunnan province, accompanied by representatives from provincial, prefectural and county authorities.

14. When the mission visited Yunnan province, the immediate relief work was over and reconstruction work had begun. The entire affected population now lives either in tents or newly built temporary shelters. However, the many aftershocks caused a delay in reconstruction work. Present activities focus on the following:

  • Building temporary school shelters in order to ensure that students return to school
  • Carrying out initial rehabilitation of lightly damaged houses
  • Restoring agricultural activities.

Plans for the next stage of reconstruction are still being drawn up.

UNDAC Team Findings

15. The immediate relief work has been completed in a timely, efficient and effective manner. All basic needs have been adequately addressed and the victims of the quake have now started focusing on reconstruction activities. The early warning system functioned satisfactorily and the Government was well prepared to deal with the disaster.

16. The Red Cross and NGOs involved in relief work arrived at the disaster area immediately after the tremors, assessed the level and nature of damage and set about implementing their relief programmes. They were fully supported by provincial, prefectural and county governments.

17. The mission identified the following main risk factors:

  • Malnutrition amongst marginal groups in mountainous areas;
  • Poor awareness of how to prepare for and act during earthquakes represents a safety hazard;
  • Population living in the valleys at risk if reservoir dams collapse;
  • Risk of injury for people returning to their damaged homes;
  • Children and adults in temporary shelters face a fire risk because of building materials used;
  • Health Emergency Plans were not taken into consideration during relief activities, constituting a further risk.

UNDAC Mission Recommendations

18. The mission recommends the following:

  • The Government must attend to the disaster-affected population with special care in order to ensure their recovery;
  • International assistance should focus on disaster mitigation and preparedness training;
  • Strong public awareness campaigns on earthquake preparedness are needed in earthquake prone areas;
  • Construction codes should be instituted and adhered to;
  • Training of rural construction workers is essential;
  • Health Emergency plans should be implemented, including the training of health staff;
  • Resources must be made available for school and dormitory reconstruction.

19. The UNDAC mission recommendations were shared with the government authorities at the local, provincial and central level, as well as with the members of the United Nations Disaster Management Team in Beijing, including donors and NGOs.

20. The complete UNDAC Mission report is posted on the OCHA webpage ( A hard copy can also be made available upon request.

21. This is the last situation report on this disaster unless there are unforeseen developments. This report, together with further information on ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at

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In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

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Press contact: Mr. Donato Kiniger-Passigli, direct Tel. +41-22-917 26 53

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