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10,000 miners were underground when the Tangshan earthquake hit

Thursday, July 29th 2021, 7:53 pm - On this day in weather history, an earthquake hit Tangshan, Hebei, China.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features stories about people, communities, and events and how weather impacted them.


On Wednesday, July 28, 1976, at 3:42 a.m., a magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit Tangshan, Hebei, China. Dubbed the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, the natural disaster destroyed 85 per cent of the buildings in Tangshan. The earthquake killed more than 242,000 people, making it the third deadliest earthquake in world history.

Tangshan earthquake Tangshan earthquake site. Courtesy of Wikipedia

The earthquake had two major shocks; the first struck in the morning and the second at around 6:45 p.m. While the earthquake shook Tangshan, around 10,000 coal miners were underground. The mining tunnels stayed intact, but all the electricity failed. So without power, miners couldn't use the lifts and had to rely on their headlamps for light. Most people escaped within hours, but some didn't make it out for a couple of weeks.

The Beijing–Shanhaiguan Railway was also damaged in the quake. The train runs from Beijing southeast to Tianjin and Tanggu and acts as a major artery for transportation. During the earthquake, there were 28 freight trains and seven passenger trains on the Beijing–Shanhaiguan line. The earthquake caused seven of the freight trains to derail and two passenger trains.

唐山地震遗址纪念公园东侧西向纪念墙 Courtesy of Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

In 1975, an earthquake hit Haicheng, Liaoning, China. Many consider the 1975 Haicheng earthquake to be the first predicted quake. Because the event was predicted, the death toll was much lower, however, 2,041 still died. The Haicheng earthquake was foreseen because of its foreshocks. But there wasn't the same warning during the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, so the death toll was much higher.

There's currently a Tangshan Earthquake Memorial Park in Nanhu Park, Tangshan, that displays the names of 246,465 people who died in the quake.

To learn more about the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

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