YINCHUAN, Ningxia: I was placing my recorder on the desk of deputy mayor Li Weidong when I heard the woman behind me murmuring "I feel dizzy". Another one joined her: "Me too." Then they both said: "It's an earthquake!"
By that time, I could clearly feel the swaying of the building. It was gentle and rhythmic. I said "gentle" because half an hour earlier, when the plane I took was touching down at Yinchuan Airport, it hit turbulence, which sent my head spinning and I had not totally recovered from it.
As one who went through the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, I quickly gauged that the tremor, as felt in Yinchuan, should register at about 5 on the Richter scale. It turned out to be a quake rolled to Yinchuan some 900 km away from the epicenter in Sichuan province.
The man accompanying me said: "Everyone stay calm! This building can withstand an 8-magnitude tremor. Don't worry!"
The 16-story city hall of Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, was newly built. I was on the 15th floor, waiting to interview the deputy mayor.
The swaying lasted a good 30 seconds before my host got anxious. "Let's take off," he said.
When we reached the stairs, I still felt a bit of motion sickness, but could not tell whether it was getting better or worse as there was a column of staff descending the stairs and the pace was hurried but orderly.
Cell phone signals were not available for some 10 minutes, and then everyone started making calls.
(China Daily 05/13/2008 page2)