The World’s Most Devastating Earthquake – 7/28/1976

World History |


Every year, we encounter earthquakes that shake up the society surrounding them. It’s a natural cause that can affect any person, any city, any country, etc. At 3:42 am on this day, July 28th, in 1976, Tangshan experienced what would be the worst earthquake the world has ever encountered. Measuring between 7.8 and 8.2 on the Richter scale, the industrial city of Tangshan saw itself flattened on this day nearly 40 years ago. 

A city with a population near 1,000,000 people at the time, Tangshan wasn’t prepared or ready for this earthquake at all, waking most people up in the middle of their sleep. The earthquake would end up being one of the deadliest earthquakes the world has ever seen. All in all, nearly 242,000 people were killed in the earthquake in the city of Tangshan and the surrounding land. The earthquake was only less deadly than the Calcutta earthquake that occurred in 1737 and the one that occurred in China’s Shaanxi province in 1556. The Calcutta one totaled over 300,000 deaths, while the China one thought to have killed more than 830,000 people.

Throughout the history of the nation, China has been the victim of countless earthquakes. Although they’re not all the magnitude of the Tangshan one, any earthquake is going to be a tragedy to a nation. Being located between the Indian and Pacific plates makes China very open to earthquakes. However, because of this, China has made great advancements in avoiding them and figuring out what causes them. China was the first nation to develop functioning seismometers.

Leading up to the earthquake, many people reported weird sightings and unusual actions from their surrounding body. Water levels in wells began to rise and fall, rats were seen running in big packs in a panic state, and chickens didn’t want to eat.

At the time of the earthquake, almost everyone was asleep. The earthquake lasted a total of 23 seconds and pretty much destroyed nearly 90 percent of Tangshan’s buildings. Due to the extreme heat of the summer, many people were seen climbing out of their damaged houses naked. As they made it to the surface, they were covered in both dust and blood. Fires, explosions, poisonous gas, and much more became problems to the society, as well as having no water, electricity or railroad transportation. 

No city, state or even country will ever be prepared for an earthquake this size. In the days following the earthquake, soldiers were sent for aid, supplies was dropped by helicopters and planes, medical personnel was sent in, construction workers began building. The craziest part of it all, the Chinese didn’t want any help from foreigners. Instead, they chose to handle it themselves, claiming to be self-sufficient.

However, it would seem that help is what they would need. Looting became a problem, the damage was too much for them to handle by themselves and too many people were left homeless, thirsty, hungry, and even dead. Hopefully something like this never happens again in this world. We don’t need it.

Share On Facebook