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China Health & Science

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.

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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

Fangcang Forever: China’s Temporary Covid19 Makeshift Hospitals To Become Permanent

China’s temporary ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are here to stay.

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A new term has been added to China’s pandemic lexicon today: Permanent Fangcang Hospital. Although China’s ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are, by definition, temporary, these healthcare facilities to isolate and treat Covid patients are now becoming a permanent feature of China’s Zero-Covid approach.

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have emphasized the need for China’s bigger cities to build or renovate existing makeshift Covid hospitals, and turn them into permanent sites.

So-called ‘Fangcang hospitals’ (方舱医院, square cabin hospitals) are large, temporary makeshift shelter hospitals to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. Fangcang shelter hospitals were first established in China during the Wuhan outbreak as a countermeasure to stop the spread of the virus.

January 5 2022, a Fangcang or Isolation Point with over 1000 separate isolations rooms is constructed in Baqiao District of Xi’an (Image via Renmin Shijue).

They have since become an important part of China’s management of the pandemic and the country’s Zero-Covid policy as a place to isolate and treat people who have tested positive for Covid-19, both asymptomatic and mild-to-moderate symptomatic cases. In this way, the Fangcang hospitals alleviate the pressure on (designated) hospitals, so that they have more beds for patients with serious or severe symptoms.

On May 5th, Chinese state media reported about an important top leadership meeting regarding China’s Covid-19 situation. In this meeting, the Politburo Standing Committee stressed that China would “unswervingly adhere to the general Zero-Covid policy” and that victory over the virus would come with persistence. At the meeting, chaired by Xi Jinping, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also declared that China would fight against any words or acts that “distort, doubt, or deny” the country’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

Life inside one of Shanghai’s Fangcang, photo via UDN.com.

Following the meeting, there have been multiple official reports and statements that provide a peek into China’s ‘zero Covid’ future.

On May 13, China’s National Health Commission called on all provinces to build or renovate city-level Fangcang hospitals, and to make sure they are equipped with electricity, ventilation systems, medical appliances, toilets, and washing facilities (Weibo hashtag ##以地级市为单位建设或者改造方舱医院#).

On May 16, the term ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital’ (Weibo hashtag #永久性方舱医院) became a trending topic on Weibo after Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟), Minister of China’s National Health Commission, introduced the term in Qiushi (求是), the leading official theoretical journal of the Chinese Communist Party.

The term is new and is somewhat contradictory as a concept, since ‘Fangcang hospitals’ are actually defined by their temporary nature.

Ma Xiaowei stressed the need for Chinese bigger cities to be ready for the next stage of China’s Covid control. This also includes the need for some central ‘Fangcang’ makeshift hospitals to become permanent ones.

In order to ‘normalize’ the control and monitoring that comes with living in Zero-Covid society, Chinese provincial capitals and bigger cities (more than ten million inhabitants) should do more to improve Covid testing capacities and procedures. Ma proposes that there should be nucleic acid sample collection points across the city within a 15-minute walking distance radius, and testing frequency should be increased to maximize efficient control and prevention.

Cities should be prepared to take in patients for isolation and/or treatment at designated hospitals, centralized isolation sites, and the permanent Fangcang hospitals. The recent Covid outbreak in Shanghai showed that local authorities were unprepared to deal with the outbreak, and sites that were used as Fangcang hospitals often lacked proper facilities, leading to chaotic scenes.

A Fangcang Isolation Center in Quanzhou, March 2022, via People’s Daily.

The hashtag “Permanent Fangcang Hospitals” received over 140 million views on Weibo on Monday.

One of the Weibo threads by state media reporting on the Permanent Fangcang hospitals and the publication by Ma Xiaowei received nearly 2000 comments, yet the comment section only displayed three comments praising the newly announced measures, leaving out the other 1987 comments.

Elsewhere on Weibo, people shared their views on the Permanent Fangcang Hospitals, and most were not very positive – most commenters shared their worries about China’s Covid situation about the stringent measures being a never-ending story.

“We’re normalizing nucleic acid test, we’re introducing permanent fangcang hospitals, [but] why isn’t the third Covid vaccination coming through?” one person wondered.

“If there was still a little bit of passion inside me, it was just killed by reading these words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital,'” another commenter writes, with one Weibo user adding: “I feel desperate hearing the words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital.'”

“Building permanent Fangcang? Why? Why don’t you use the resources you’re now spending on normalizing testing to create more hospital beds, more medical staff and more medications?”

Another commenter wrote: “China itself is one giant permanent Fangcang hospital.”

“The forever Fangcang are being built,” one Weibo user from Guangdong writes: “This will never end. We’ll be locked up like birds in a cage for our entire life.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Featured image via user tongtong [nickname] Weibo.com.

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

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China Health & Science

Shanghai ‘Dead Man’ Taken Away to Morgue, Found to Be Alive

An incident in which a man taken to a morgue turned out to be alive doesn’t really help to restore residents’ trust in Shanghai.

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An incident in which a Shanghai man, who was thought to be dead, was taken to a funeral home before he was found to be alive has become a big topic on Chinese social media.

The incident happened on the afternoon of May 1st at the Shanghai Xinchangzheng Nursing Home (上海新长征福利院) in the city’s Putuo District.

A video of the incident went viral on Chinese social media in which a body bag can be seen put into a vehicle by three people, two members of staff from the nursing home and one funeral home worker. Shortly after, the body bag is taken out again and put back on a trolley. One of the nurses zips open the bag, pulls a cover from the man’s face, and apparently finds him to be alive.

“He’s alive,” one of the workers says in shock: “He’s alive, I saw it, he’s alive. Don’t cover him any more.”

The man is then transferred back into the nursing home, still inside the body bag.

The video that is making its rounds on social media was filmed from two different angles, the person filming can be heard calling the incident “a disgrace for human life” and “irresponsible.”

On May 2nd, the Chinese state media outlet People’s Daily posted about the incident on Weibo, saying the city district is currently investigating the case. The man was hospitalized and his vital signs are stable.

Meanwhile, multiple people are held accountable for the incident. The head of the nursing home has been dismissed and will be further investigated, along with four district officials. The license of the doctor involved will also be revoked.

The Shanghai Xinchangzheng Nursing Home has also apologized for the incident (#上海一福利院就未死亡老人被拉走道歉#).

On social media, many people are angry about the incident, wondering why the old man was transported to the funeral home in the first place, and why the members of staff seemed to be indifferent after finding out he was still alive.

In the video, the member of staff standing next to the man can be seen covering the patient’s face again after finding out he is still alive, leaving the body bag zipped up. Many also see this as a cold and incomprehensible way to respond.

After weeks of online anger about the chaotic and sometimes inhumane way in which Shanghai authorities have been handling the Covid outbreak in the city, this incident seems to further lower the public’s trust in how patients and vulnerable residents are being treated.

“Shanghai is such a terrifying place!”, some on Weibo write.

“Just think about it,” one person responded: “This incident took place in one of China’s most prosperous cities and happened to be filmed. How much is happening in other cities that is not caught on camera? Today, it’s this man, in the future, it’s us.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

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

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