A national project to build early warning systems for earthquakes and rapid reporting of quake intensity will install equipment at Sichuan provincial earthquake bureau, which is at the center of regional seismic activity.
The project to cover the so-called north-south seismic belt, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, northern China and the southeastern coastal region should be completed in about five years.
The China Earthquake Administration announced on Aug 20 that the national project had been approved by the State Council in June.
A real-time system providing warnings seconds after an earthquake can save lives because the warnings are transmitted via radio waves traveling much faster than seismic waves through the ground.
The north-south seismic belt passes east of Gansu province and west of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. Coverage of the Sichuan region is important to the national project.
The Sichuan Earthquake Bureau will be able to report the intensity of an earthquake of magnitude-5 or above within two to five minutes, once the project is completed. It also will be able to send early warnings for quakes registering magnitude-5.5 or above.
When the magnitude-8 Wenchuan earthquake occurred in Sichuan on May 12, 2008, the Sichuan Earthquake Bureau could not report its intensity that day. When the magnitude-7 Lushan earthquake jolted Sichuan on April 20, 2013, the bureau reported the intensity two hours later. When the magnitude-6.3 earthquake happened in Kangding, Sichuan, on November 22 last year, the bureau could report the intensity a half-hour later.
“China started developing the early warning and quake intensity reporting systems after the Wenchuan earthquake,” said Chen Huizhong, a senior research fellow with the Institute of Geophysics of the China Earthquake Administration.
After the Wenchuan quake, Wang Tun, a postdoctoral fellow of theoretical physics at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, set up his private Institute of Care-Life in Chengdu, Sichuan, to conduct research into early warning systems.
Since 2013, it has correctly sent early warnings after 28 earthquakes above magnitude-4.5.