CHINA / National

China marks 30th anniversary of Tangshan earthquake
Updated: 2006-07-28 20:38

Tangshan, Hebei -- More than 1,000 people took part in commemoration activities Friday morning in Tangshan, northern Hebei Province, to mark the 30th anniversary of the terrible earthquake which killed more than 240,000 people there.

At 8:30 a.m. Friday people from all walks of life headed by Bai Keming, secretary of the Hebei Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), gathered at a square in downtown Tangshan to lay flowers at the monument to citizens and rescuers who died in the tragedy.

"Thirty years on, we will never forget the victims of the tragedy, but we must carry on with courage, confidence and hope," said Bai.

Zhang He, secretary of the CPC Tangshan City Committee, said that citizens have gradually stepped out of the shadow of the quake and a new Tangshan with a robust economy, a stable society and happy citizens has been born from the ruins and debris.

More than seven million people live in the 13,472 square-kilometer Tangshan municipal area, including an urban population of three million, according to the official website of the Tangshan city government.

In the past year, Tangshan's gross domestic product grew by 15.1 percent to reach 202.7 billion yuan (US$25.3 billion), taking it to first place in Hebei Province.

The 2005 per capita disposable income for urban residents was 10,488 yuan (US$1,311) and 4,582 yuan (US$572.8) for rural residents.

Bai said that world seismological history shows that it often takes several decades or even a hundred years to reconstruct a city after a major earthquake.

It took San Francisco 30 years to recover from the 1906 earthquake while Japan spent 20 years rebuilding after the 1923 Kanto quake.

Yet Tangshan completed its resurrection in only ten years and developed rapidly over the following two decades. "It's nothing short of a miracle," said the official.

"However, without support from people across the country and from central government and without the selfless devotion of the People's Liberation Army, Tangshan would not be where it is today, " said Bai.

Though the disaster took more than 240,000 lives, its positive legacy is the "Tangshan spirit", characterized by teamwork, toughness and persistence.

He said the Chinese government was keen to commemorate the day and remind the nation of this dramatic piece of history.

An earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale razed Tangshan, 200 kilometers east of Beijing, early in the morning of July 28, 1976, leaving 242,769 people dead and 164,851 critically injured.

The death toll was kept secret for three years and was revealed in 1979 by Xinhua reporter Xu Xuejiang.