January 5, 1970 – The Tonghai earthquake shakes Tonghai County, Yunnan province, China, killing at least 10,000 people

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The 1970 Tonghai earthquake occurred at 01:00:41 local time on January 5 with a moment magnitude of 7.1 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of X (Extreme).

The strike-slip rupture originated on the Red River Fault, which had not experienced an earthquake above magnitude 7 since 1700, and affected Tonghai County, Yunnan province, China.

At least 10,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest in its decade. The tremor caused between US$5 to $25 million in damage, felt over an area of 8,781 km2 (3,390 sq mi).

In Hanoi, North Vietnam, almost 483 km (300 mi) from the epicenter, victims left their homes as the rupture rumbled through the city.

Occurring during the height of the Cultural Revolution, it was not widely publicized by the Chinese government for well over a decade.

The amount of aid and finances distributed was described by the Beijing Morning Post as “pathetically small”.

Much of the aid provided to survivors was in “spiritual” form, including Mao Zedong badges and condolence letters.

Nevertheless, the earthquake was among the first to be studied over a long term by the Chinese government.

It was cited as one of the reasons behind creating the largest earthquake monitoring system in China, 25 years later.

Tony Simon

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