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Footage Shows Mysterious Flashes Before Qinghai Earthquake

The flashes of light seen in the sky right before the Qinghai earthquake have become a trending topic on Weibo.

Luke Jacobus

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Videos of the January 8th quake, which occurred in Qinghai’s Menyuan county, appear to show several intense flashes of light filling the night sky immediately preceding the quake. The videos have sparked debate among Chinese internet users as to the explanation for the brilliant lights, with some referencing the little-understood phenomenon of “Earthquake Lights.”

On January 8 at approximately 1:45 AM, Menyuan County in the Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in China’s Qinghai Province was struck by a magnitude 6.9 earthquake, damaging several homes and causing minor injuries to four people.

Photos of buildings in the area show shattered wall tiling and window glass, a partial ceiling collapse, and other minor structural damage. The area around the quake’s epicenter is sparsely populated, but tremors could be felt in numerous nearby cities including Zhangye, Wuwei, Jinchang, Lanzhou, and Linxia Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu, as well as causing railway closures along the Qinghai-Tibet and Lanzhou-Qinghai high-speed rail lines, Jiangxi Daily reports.

The earthquake was followed by several subsequent quakes, including 5 quakes of lesser magnitude all within the hour.

According to the China Earthquake Administration, the quakes continued into the 9th, with a magnitude 3.2 earthquake recorded in Menyuan county at 0:44 on January 9th.

CCTV footage shot moments before the quake and shared widely on Weibo captured a bright, explosive flash of light, which quickly disappears before a second, shorter flash lights up the night sky, followed immediately by tremors.

The footage intrigued Chinese netizens, with the hashtag “Intense Flash of Light on the Horizon Before the Qinghai Earthquake” (#青海地震前地平线出现耀眼强光#) accumulating over 100 million views by Sunday and giving rise to debate over the cause of the strange lights. Other videos capturing the flash from different angles show only one flash, or several smaller flashes along the horizon.

Much of the debate centered around whether this was a case of “Earthquake Lights” (地光/地震光, also EQLs), a controversial phenomenon among scientists which is sometimes reported before high-magnitude earthquakes, such as Italy’s 2009 L’Aquila quake.

Just before and after quakes begin, witnesses have reported seeing unexplainable light phenomena in a range of colors, ranging from brilliant white flashes as bright as daylight to a blue, flame-like glow hovering above the earth.

Explanations range from the ionization of oxygen in rocks under intense stress, piezoelectric or triboluminescent phenomena, and leaks of radioactive ionizing gas into the atmosphere to more mundane sources, such as the flailing of damaged power lines. Sometimes the lights were also said to come from UFOs or explained them in religious terms, but a 2014 study refuted this and linked the phenomenon to rift environments.

Interestingly, this is not the first time the phenomenon has been reported to precede a major earthquake in China. Some Weibo users remarked that “Earthquake Lights” had been seen before the disastrous 1976 Tangshan earthquake, which damaged or destroyed vast swathes of that city and killed over 240,000 people. Two movies depicting the quake, After the Blue Light Flashes.. (蓝光闪过之后..) and The Great Tangshan Earthquake (唐山大地震) both feature scenes of mysterious bright lights illuminating the night sky moments before tremors began.

Strange lights were also reported in the sky in Tianshui, Gansu province, preceding the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Other Weibo users remained unconvinced about the strange lights being mysterious Earthquake Lights. “Don’t freak out over it,” one user wrote: “It’s just a downed power line.”

Another online video features commentary from seismologist Chen Huizhong (陈会忠) of the China Earthquake Administration, who explains the flashes as an electrical transformer exploding, noting that footage from another angle shows the tremors damaging electrical lines in the distance, which begin sparking and showing obvious signs of damage. This damage, however, occurs after the tremors have already started, and does not seem to explain the bright flashes which lit up the sky immediately preceding the tremors.

Still others suggested that radon gas leaking from underground as the earth shifted could have caused the flash.

While the debate rages on between proponents and skeptics of “Earthquake Lights,” a third group of online commenters has already made up their minds: the Weibo fans of prominent Chinese science fiction writer and The Three-Body Problem author Liu Cixin (刘慈欣), wasted no time in heralding the coming of extraterrestrial invaders.

“Looking forward to a scientific explanation,” wrote one user: “As for me, I think it’s the first step in an alien attack.” The user’s post ended with the hashtag, “The Sophon from Three-Body Problem has arrived!”

 
By Luke Jacobus

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Luke Jacobus is a sophomore Mandarin / International Studies double major at the University of Mississippi's Chinese Flagship Program. Jacobus is passionate about China's popular culture, cinema, and online media.

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China and Covid19

The End to Zero Covid: China’s New 10 Covid Rules Are Here

“Everyone is really happy but there is a black cloud heading our way.”

Manya Koetse

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Over the past few weeks, China’s Covid measures have seen gradual changes, and various places across China have eased local rules regarding nucleic acid testing and the accessibility of public transport and venues. Now, central authorities have announced more measures that basically end the ‘zero Covid’ policy as we knew it. The ‘ten new rules’ became top trending on Weibo.

Just a month ago, on November 11, Chinese central authorities released a set of twenty new rules to “further optimize” China’s approach to Covid.

At the time, Chinese media emphasized that the new rules did not mean that China was letting go of its dynamic Zero Covid policy. Now, another ten new rules have been introduced that do indicate that the country is clearly no longer sticking to its ‘zero Covid’ goals.

After a central meeting that took place on December 6, authorities released a 10-point plan addressing changes in Covid measures. National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng (米锋) announced the measures during a live-streamed press conference of the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council (#国务院联防联控机制发布会#).

On Wednesday, several hashtags related to the new measures went trending on Chinese social media, including “Health Code” (#健康码#), over 450 million views), and “Ten New Rules” (#新十条#, over 440 million views).

 
These Are the 10 Changes:
 

1: Lockdown Changes
Risk areas should be assessed and divided according to science and it should be done precisely. We should no longer see the lockdown of an entire community or residential area; instead, it will be assessed by looking at household units, buildings, and apartment floors. The (temporary) closure of areas will no longer be allowed.

2: Testing Changes
The scope of nucleic acid testing was already limited in the previous adjusted rules, but will now be further limited. Instead of RT-PCR tests, rapid PCR tests will be used more often in accordance with local requirements. Nucleic acid testing will remain in place for high-risk positions and high-risk area personnel in accordance with relevant regulations, and some places including nursing homes, schools, and medical care institutions will still require negative tests, but negative nucleic acid test certificates and health code checks will no longer be necessary for traveling from place to place.

3: Quarantine Changes
People who tested positive but are asymptomatic or only show mild symptoms can isolate at home if they meet local requirements. Centralized isolation centers will still be in operation for more severe cases or those opting in for centralized quarantine. If nucleic acid tests are negative after the fifth day, the isolation period can end.

4: ‘High-Risk Area’ Changes
If no new cases have been detected for five consecutive days, local lockdowns should be lifted.

5: Medicine Availability Changes
Pharmacies should operate normally and cannot be arbitrarily closed. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for cough, fever, etc should not be restricted.

6: Vaccination Strategy Changes
The promotion of the Covid vaccination should be stepped up for Chinese seniors, especially in the 60-79 age group, with a clear focus on making sure they get all the vaccinations they need as quickly as possible. In order to boost the vaccination rates, temporary vaccination sites will need to be set up and they will need to be local incentives to get the seniors to vaccinate asap. This was actually also mentioned in the list of twenty optimized Covid measures in November (under rule 12).

7: Medical Classification Clarity
There should be clearer knowledge on the medical status of residents and whether elderly residents have any underlying medical issues and if they have been vaccinated.

8: Focus on the Normal Functioning of Society & Basic Medical Services
If areas are not classified as high-risk areas, people should be allowed to move around freely and have access to basic medical care, and there should be no restrictions on production, work, and business operations.

9: Strengthen Safety Procedures in Epidemic Situations
Buildings [in high-risk areas] cannot block fire exits, unit doors, or community gates under any circumstances. Community management departments should have effective modes of communication systems in place to contact local medical institutions in order to safeguard the medical needs of residents, including seniors living alone, children, pregnant women, and those with underlying conditions.

10: Improved Policies regarding Outbreaks at School Campuses
As also mentioned in the previous updated rules, on-campus epidemic control must be consistent, precise, and in accordance with science. Not only can there be no unnecessarily long lockdowns of campuses, but the risk areas within campuses should be more precisely defined, and normal teaching and living outside these areas should be able to continue as usual. Schools without any outbreaks should carry on normal offline teaching activities, and capus facilities such as supermarkets, cafeterias, libraries, etc. should be open.

 
Online Responses
 

One clear online response to China’s recent ‘optimized’ Covid measures is that people are buying a lot of medication, expecting to be infected with Covid soon. Some online stores had already sold out on the Traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen (连花清瘟), a herbal pill by Yiling Pharmaceuticals which is used for the treatment of influenza as well as Covid.

Sold-out Lianhua Qingwen pills.

One popular Weibo blogger (@咖啡布偶猫) wrote: “I feel as if the propaganda has seen a sudden change in direction. During the first half of the year and the epidemic in Shanghai, everyone would get scared the moment you talked about a positive case, they wanted to fiercely chase it and thoroughly reach zero cases. Now they are propagating that we should not panic, that we should accept the reality and actively respond to it, as if it is nothing alarming. But we should still pay attention to those with underlying medical conditions, those with respiratory issues, asthma, and lung disease. If you haven’t bought cold medicine yet, do so. Right now, some places even have a limit on buying Lianhua Qingwen.”

During the December 7 press conference, Guo Yanhong (郭燕红), director of the National Health Commission’s health emergency division, emphasized that it is not necessary for people to stock up on medication in light of the announced eased Covid measures and that there are sufficient supplies (#卫健委提示没有必要囤积抢购药物#).

“After being sealed for three years, it’s all lifted in a morning, all the prices go up for Lianhua Qingwen, rapid antigen tests increase in price, and if your symptoms get serious you’re still not able to get help anywhere.”

Some jokingly suggest that after messing around for three years, the pandemic is only now really starting.

“Everyone is really happy now but there’s a black cloud coming our way, we will know in a month or so if it is going to be light drizzle or a heavy rainstorm.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China and Covid19

Part of the Problem: Anger in Lanzhou over Covid-Positive Nucleic Acid Testing Staff

Anger, distrust in Lanzhou after community staff discovered that those coming to test residents had not had a recent Covid test themselves.

Manya Koetse

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When the people who are testing the community for Covid are actually bringing the virus into the area.

There has been unrest in various places across China over the past few days, from students making their voices heard in Nanjing and Xi’an to people locally protesting against stringent Covid measures in Urumqi, Guangzhou, and beyond.

Sunday, November 27, saw the second night of protests in Shanghai. On Saturday, crowds gathered at the city’s Wulumqi Road (read here).

Meanwhile, Lanzhou city, Gansu Province, is trending on Chinese social media.

On November 26, people at a residential area (Biguiyuan Community 碧桂园小区) in Lanzhou’s Chengguan District found out that the local nucleic acid testing staff did not have a 24-hour period negative nucleic acid test result. The staff had come to run another round of door-to-door tests after the community had been in (semi-) lockdown for eight days.

After demanding that the nucleic acid staff members would get tested themselves, it was found that one of them tested positive for Covid.

One hashtag related to the case received over 400 million Weibo views on Sunday (#兰州通报核酸采样人员阳性#).

A video that went viral on social media showed community management staff talking to a local government official, saying:

You represent the government, let me tell you something. We have discovered a problem today. The medical staff that has come to do our nucleic acid tests, not a single one of them had a 24-hour nucleic acid certificate. I demand that qualified medical staff comes to test them, and that you come up with his work permit before testing us.”

The person testing positive is a 21-year-old staff member working at the Third People’s Hospital (第三人民医院) of Chengguan District.

District authorities issued a statement on Sunday saying that they would further investigate how a Covid-positive staff member could be sent into a community without recent test certificates.

But the statement did not help prevent online anger.

The incident is emblematic of China’s current Covid troubles, that have led to dissatisfaction, confusion, and frustrations in various places across China when it comes to Covid measures.

A stream of videos on Chinese social media show clashes between local anti-epidemic workers and residents in various places.

In Wuhan, a woman called out a worker who placed fences in front of the residential building. “Where are your credentials?!” she angrily asked.

Another person shouted at a local staff member at a locked down community who was just sitting and playing games on his phone. “Explain us what’s going on,” the resident said, and the worker replied: “My job is just to sit here.”

The lack of clarity on local Covid situations and guidelines mixed with a distrust in those who are managing the current epidemic is a toxic situation that is essentially at the root of the current outbreaks of unrest and protests in various places in China.

Many people commenting on the Lanzhou issue wonder what would have happened if the Biguiyuan Community manager had not detected that the nucleic acid test results of the anti-epidemic workers had not been updated. They might have spread Covid to many other communities.

One commenter from Guangdong wrote: “I don’t really get it: I just received a text message from my town asking me to do a nucleic acid, saying that I would be held legally responsible if I would spread [the virus], but I don’t even go out. So if I adhere to your request and go do the nucleic acid test and get infected because of it, will you bear the legal responsibility? Will I be compensated for the damage?”

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

By Manya Koetse 

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Featured image by @导筒directube

 

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