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Earthquake Near Chengdu, China
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
More than two weeks after a large earthquake struck Sichuan Province in China on May 12, 2008, dangerous aftershocks continued to rumble in the mountainous terrain. Among the additional threats to human safety were landslide-caused dams that blocked rivers. Lakes filled as engineers and soldiers worked on drainage canals in the most dangerous areas, and thousands of people were forced to evacuate as the threat of catastrophic flooding loomed.
This pair of images shows the formation of a lake in a western tributary of the Min Jiang (Min River, image right) about 18 kilometers (about 11 miles) northwest of the town of Dujiangyan. (Just beyond the lower right corner of the scene, the Min River makes a sharp eastward turn and flows out into the Sichuan Basin.) The images are made from a combination of visible and infrared light to enhance the contrast between vegetation (red), bare ground (tan) and water (light blue).
The river where the landslide-generated lake is forming appears to be the main river that runs through the Wolong Panda Reserve, China’s largest Giant Panda sanctuary. The bare slopes of the mountains may be a combination of earthquake-generated landslides and deforestation, a long-standing conservation challenge for the area’s panda habitat.
NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and the U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. Caption by Rebecca Lindsey.
On May 12, 2008, an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.9 struck China's Sichuan Province. Aftershocks, some of them larger than magnitude 6.0, continued in the weeks after the quake. Large lakes formed behind landslide-created dams.