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Tangshan, ChinaReturn
A Tangshan railroad building lies in pieces. The city was nearly razed in the temblor.
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Date: July 28, 1976, 4 a.m.
Magnitude: 7.5
Dead: At least 240,000
Injured: At least 500,000
Damage: 85 percent of buildings destroyed

With no structures built for earthquake resistance, Tangshan was a sitting duck.

This city of one million, about 68 miles (110 kilometers) east of Beijing, was nearly decimated when a magnitude 7.8 quake shook it awake in 1976. A major aftershock followed 15 hours later.

When the dust settled, a staggering 240,000 people had been killed, and at least 500,000 more were injured—the largest earthquake death toll in 400 years.

The city was nearly razed. The electric power system failed, as did the water supply, the sewer system, telephones, and radio communications. Tangshan's coal mines were destroyed. Collapsed highways and railroads isolated the city and kept rescuers and aid away.

Although the Tan-Lu Fault runs beneath the city, experts had estimated that Tangshan had a low probability of being hit hard by a temblor. As a result the city was ill prepared for the unexpected quake.

Nearly 95 percent of the city's homes and 78 percent of commercial buildings were destroyed. Most victims were killed when their unreinforced masonry homes collapsed while they were asleep. In one College Mining Institute dorm alone, more than 2,000 students died.

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