103 Students Killed in Qinghai Earthquake (So Far)

UPDATE 6: Casualty numbers updated to reflect recent reports. A quotation from the New York Times added that suggest that the number of dead students may be being intentionally underreported.

UPDATE 5: Casualty numbers updated to reflect recent reports. Rescuers expect the death toll to continue to climb as the cold weather makes it increasingly difficult for those trapped under the rubble.

UPDATE 4: If you can handle it, China Daily has a pretty devastating story about teachers trying to dig their students out of the rubble with their bare hands.

UPDATE 3: Casualty numbers updated to reflect recent reports.

UPDATE 2: Gochengdoo has a pretty exhaustive list of ways to donate money to Qinghai earthquake relief efforts, and the Huffington Post has an even better one. We suggest the Red Cross Society of China (easy if you have a bank account in China), which has an English page set up here, or the Mercy Corps (easy if you have a foreign credit card). Lots of charities are taking donations in the name of helping out, we just picked these two because they already have teams on-site, but please check out all your options, we have not researched this exhaustively.

UPDATE: The China Daily reports the death toll has risen to 589, and that in addition to the 56 103 students killed there are also 40 students trapped under the rubble. The article below has been updated to reflect this and other relevant new info.

Undoubtedly, you have already heard about the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that occurred in Yushu, Qinghai province yesterday. You have probably heard the casualty numbers, which as of this writing remain at 400 589 760 1,144 1,484 dead, 8,000 11,477 11,744 12,088 injured, and 243 417 312 missing. And even if you haven’t read about it, you could probably guess that just like the Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan two years ago, it seems as though shoddily built schools have collapsed, and 56 103 students have been killed. (BBC Chinese is reporting that “at least thirty” students have died, The Age is reporting 66 are believed dead.)

Recently, an article in the New York Times also suggested that the number of deceased students might be being intentionally underreported:

At the No. 3 Primary School, the monks said they had pulled 50 students from collapsed classrooms but when an official came by to ask how many had died, the police offered half that number. “I think they’re afraid to let the world know how bad this earthquake is,” said Gen Ga Ja Ba, a 23-year-old monk.

Ai Weiwei recently tweeted a rather relevant, if rhetorical, question to the government: “You fear the living. Do you also fear the dead?”

According to this story, “Yushu Assistant Director of Education Xiao Yuping said that as of around 7:40 P.M. yesterday, there were already 56 students who were confirmed dead.” According the China Daily, he also said that 22 of those deaths came from the vocational school. [UPDATE: Sources are now reporting at least 103 students are dead].

Additionally, the Vice-Pronpaganda Minister for the prefecture reported that he’d personally seen the local vocational school collapse, and reported that “many students were buried underneath.” It is unclear whether these students — or any students whose bodies haven’t yet been found — are being counted among the deceased.

Other sites have also reported school building collapses, but specific school names, and the number of schools (and students) involved remain unclear. Danwei’s piece quotes a China National Radio report where a Red Cross official reports that 70% of the schools in Yushu collapsed, but we haven’t been able to confirm that number — or exactly how many schools that is — anywhere else. According to Assistant Director of Education Xiao Yuping, only 50% of the schools in Yushu collapsed.

Also via Danwei, there are reports that the government is restricting who can and cannot do on-the-ground reporting, which may mean that specific numbers are still a ways off. (There’s also apparently no discussing the earthquake online allowed either.)

We don’t want to jump to any conclusions before there’s solid evidence, but 70% of the schools collapsing? If that figure is true, it is both tragic and, given the warning of the dangers of tofu-dreg buildings we got from the Sichuan earthquake that killed over 5,000 students, totally preventable. “Our top priority is to save students,” a rescuer told the China Daily. But perhaps that would be less of a priority if schools were being built properly in the first place.

It is, to say the least, disheartening.

We will try to keep up with the latest figures and report on them here as more information trickles out of the disaster area.

On an unrelated note: Today marks the 21st anniversary of Hu Yaobang’s death, which served as the spark that ignited the Tiananmen protests and eventual crackdown in 1989. Wen Jiabao has written and published a commemorative essay in the People’s Daily on Hu, who was ousted from the Party in 1987. A sign that the official line on Tiananmen might be shifting? [Update: We have translated Wen Jiabao’s editorial.]

0 thoughts on “103 Students Killed in Qinghai Earthquake (So Far)”

  1. Do you know if there was anything along these lines written on Hu Yaobang last year, or in the past? I.e. was stuff on Hu Yaobang banned/blocked last year because of the impending 20th anniversary of Tiananmen?


  2. The GFW is blocking my Google search for the Chinese characters for Yaobang (not including his surname, which is also sensitive).
    His Chinese and English Wikipedia pages are accessible, though.

    I think for one reason or another, the premier writing an essay in the People’s Daily filled with fond memories of the man is significant. Maybe we’re just used to the tension and censorship that reached an apex before/during the 20th and 60th anniversaries, and this is just signifying a return to pre-2009 norms of what is or isn’t taboo here. Or maybe an actual change in the official history is on it’s way…


  3. pug_ster, you may not realize this, but Chinese public opinion is very much concerned with the welfare of children. Sure, you may find this easy to understand under normal circumstances, but it remains the case in times of disaster. In this earthquake, particularly because of the collapsed schools during the 2008 disaster in Sichuan, one of the chief focal points for the Chinese media and its audience is the fate of schoolchildren. Read the China National Radio commentary linked above on Danwei — where does the commentator become most emotional? When discussing the fate of schoolchildren. The Haiti earthquake had kidnappings being done in the name of rescue, and while China has fortunately escaped that particular problem, the issue of collapsed schools is a real one that is on the minds of many people in China at the present time.


  4. What the hell are you thinking about? Yes there are countless jerry-built projects spread all over China. Yes China’s government has the bad habit to lie about the real statistics of disaster victims. And yes China’s government did a lot of shit. But at this moment there is a devastating earthquake taking place in Tibet, the number of the dead is still rising, the rescue team is still pulling bodies out of debris, countless officals and individuals are rushing to the front to offer help. And you sitting here critizing China’s government and even added an “Also interesting thing”. Do you think the disaster is a samsara game? You quoted the percentage of collapsed schools Danwei mentioned and China’s government’s tactic of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but have you noticed Danwei is also “worried about another issue: what will the disaster victims eat this evening, how will they escape the cold, and how will they sleep”. Do you even show any respect to those who died in the earthquake?


  5. 三水,

    Different people show respect in different ways. I don’t think anyone is happy to see the destruction.

    However, it seems to me that you may be interrogating the wrong person. Wen Jiabao is the one who had his essay published in the People’s Daily during this disaster. If Grandpa Wen thinks it is worth publishing, is that not in itself worth discussing?

    Since discussing the quake online was [temporarily?] banned the other day, there’s not much else to talk about. We don’t know what’s going on (or at least I don’t).

    I don’t really get the hostility.


  6. 三水,Let me ask you something: Do you think the parents of those dead students give a fuck about what they’re going to eat tonight, or whether or not their house is destroyed? Their children are dead — forever.

    I’m worried too about where people will eat or sleep tonight, but at least those people will have a chance. The students who died never got that chance to survive. I desperately wish that right now, I was worried about what those children would eat tonight, or where they would sleep. But they’re dead, crushed by buildings that should have been fixed, especially after EVERYONE saw what could happen two years ago.

    Yes, many people are rushing to the front to help. As you know, I live in the US, so I can’t really do that (I have already donated money, though). And I applaud the government’s efforts to rescue those who remain trapped and take care of those whose homes have been destroyed, but I can’t help being angry about those who’ve already died. The government could have rescued them, too, by re-inspecting schools and rebuilding schools that aren’t properly built, but they didn’t, and now 56 children — probably more — are dead.

    My first response to the Sichuan earthquake two years ago was probably similar to everyone else’s. Sadness, fear, concern for the people trapped under the rubble. But in all honesty, my first response to this earthquake was anger, anger that many of these deaths could have been prevented if someone had stepped up and initiated some kind of real building evaluation/inspection. Houses can be rebuilt, cold people can be taken to shelter, hungry people can be fed. The plight of the survivors is a tragedy, yes, but what about the dead? There is nothing we can do for them now, and it fills me with rage that something could have been done for them before, but wasn’t. Call it disrespectful to the survivors if you want, but I don’t see it that way at all.

    This post is focused on the students partially because that’s what has struck me the most about this tragedy, and partially because there are already many, many websites that are writing about the survivors and the rescue efforts in English. Every major news website has written about it, so people who come to this site have already read that.

    Now, I do agree that having “also very interesting” (those words specifically) is in poor taste. To be honest, I wrote this post last night after a very long day and I wasn’t thinking very hard about the transition between the two stories. I have changed it to “On an unrelated note”, which I think is better.


  7. Oh please. It is not like the Sichuan earthquake where buildings collapsed because of shotty construction. The buildings which collapsed built of mud and wood and probably built before the 2008 earthquake anyways.

    Also, building codes in the rural areas are not enforced. I can tell you that my uncle who lives in a village in the guangdong providence just build their houses without the government’s permission a few years back. If there was an earthquake happened there today with the same magnitude, I would not be surprised that they would collapse either and it is not the government’s fault.


  8. Of course it’s not the government’s fault if some illegally-built house collapses. But schools? They are built by the government, so I fail to see how it could not be their fault.


  9. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/04/15/world/main6397532.shtml?tag=stack

    According to the article:

    The destruction of schools was an eerie echo of the Sichuan quake, in which thousands of students died when their poorly built schools collapsed. But unlike in Sichuan – where schools toppled as other buildings stood – everything fell over in Yushu.

    Xu Lai, a spokesman for the Qinghai-based educational NGO Gesanghua, said rescue crews focused on recovering children buried underneath the rubble at the Yushu No. 3 Primary School, which has more than 3,000 students.

    “Most of the collapsed buildings were the first and third grade classrooms at Yushu No. 3 Primary School because they were fragile structures made from mud rather than brick and cement,” Xu said.

    While I feel sorry for the kids died, some buildings collapsed not because of shotty construction, rather they don’t have enough money to build a real school.


  10. Yeah. Even in Beijing, many childrens of migrant workers can only study in the prefabricated houses in SCMW, because those schools don’t have enough money, they even don’t have money to hire teachers. The school I visited in 2007 only pay their teachers 600RMB/month.


  11. See Update #2 above, I went with the Mercy Corps because my impression is they’re pretty reliable but in actuality I have no real way of verifying who is reliable or isn’t. The Red Cross (China) is accepting donations, which you can wire if abroad or 汇款 if you’re in China, info here:
    http://www.redcross.org.cn/ywzd/ywzd_Donation/ywzd_jzrx/ and they have an online thing here but only for those who speak Chinese

    For Americans/foreigners without Chinese bank accounts or an easy way to move RMB in and out of China, the best option is probably Mercy Corps, who (according to the Huffington post) already have a team on the ground in China and are accepting donations here:


  12. See this Economist article on the earthquake for a similar discussion between Western readers and (presumably) Chinese commenters: http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15904336

    The Economist article makes a reference to the “harsh repression of the Tibetan people.” I agree that this is unncessary and doesn’t help readers understand anything about the earthquake, at least at this stage. I think Chinese readers that are unfamiliar with Western media should be reminded that the default mode of any media in a Western country is to be critical. You could make a strong argument that this causes biases in our media, but it doesn’t indicate any hatred for China in particular (as some of the Economist commenters seem to think).


  13. Yeah I can’t say I agree with the mentioning of “harsh repression”, or the quasi-implication that the government is rescuing people because they’re afraid of looking bad rather than because there are people buried under buildings.


  14. I find it ridicious of how ‘harsh repression’ has anything to do with the earthquake here. In fact I find the very opposite. In many of the towns are mostly inhabited by Tibetans and does not have the influx of Han Chinese in this region. Because of that, they don’t have the investment of the Han Chinese to modernize this region and many of the buildings here are dipliated and probably won’t withstand a earthquake of this magnitude. The fact is that China’s response to this earthquake was very quick compared to earthquake in Haiti and even Chile.


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