East China province encourages people to report anomalies that may foretell disasters

16:14, April 06, 2011      

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Upon seeing a large swarm of dragonflies or a group of toads marching on a road, residents from east China's Jiangsu Province do not have to panic.

Rather, they can now contact the government to seek answers from experts.

Jiangsu has recently published a newly revised set of regulations regarding quake prevention and disaster reduction, with one of the revisions that encourages people and institutions to report "anomalies of the nature" to the provincial government.

"The idea is not from seismologists, but sociologists," an unnamed employee from the legislation office of the government said. "After some massive earthquakes recently, like the one in Japan, people are deeply worried about disasters."

In fact, Chinese people have always believed that an abnormal phenomenon is a sign of a forthcoming disaster. For instance, snakes go out of their holes and mice move in crowds.

Yang Jianjun, a official with the Nanjing municipal bureau of seismology, renders strong support to the newly revised regulations.

"The new regulations give people a better way to express their worries," said Yang, who noted that there were always abnormal phenomena before disasters.

He insisted it should be helpful to collect information about abnormalities that people discover. "It is good both for social stability and earthquake prediction."

"But not all the 'abnormalities' the general public find necessarily indicate a disaster," said Yang.

In April 2009, local police in east China's Anhui Province caught some smugglers and freed many frogs and snakes in the suburb of Hefei, the provincial capital.

Not knowing the fact, many local residents, seeing hordes of frogs and snakes, thought that it could be an omen for an earthquake and were too afraid to sleep in the apartments. The fear only dissipated when local seismological authorities stepped in and gave a good explanation after having made an investigation over the case.

Wang Kaiyu, a sociologist with the Anhui Provincial Academy of Social Sciences shares Yang's opinion.

"For rumors, it is better to face it rather than to avoid it," Wang said. "I believe residents have the right to know the truth if a disaster is really coming."

But Wang noted that the new regulation might be a heavier burden and would increase pressure on the government of Jiangsu.

"Some wrong information may lead to extra work for the government," Wang said. "The government should also consider whether people who deliberately spread wrong information are subject to punishments."

Source: Xinhua
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