There are stories and photos of residents of the Chinese city of Chengdu who were unable to flee their homes during an earthquake. The government has closed their homes to prevent the spread of Covid. Online images now lead to anger and disbelief. Some in Chengdu say they were told to stay indoors during the 6.8-magnitude earthquake on Monday that killed at least 65 people.
Chengdu, home to 21 million people, is currently under strict lockdown rules. China has a so-called zero Covid policy, which means that communities are routinely put into lockdown when cases of the virus are detected. In some cases, housing units where at least one person has tested positive for Covid are classified as “closed areas”. Here, residents are prohibited from leaving their homes, regardless of whether they have the virus or not.
Videos on Duyin, China’s TikTok platform, show terrified residents behind chained fences, screaming to get out. In one of the videos, a man scolds a guard as he shakes the gate of his apartment. He shouted, “Hurry up, open the door, there’s an earthquake!” In response, the guards said: “The earthquake is already over.”
‘It’s just an earthquake’
In the audio recording, a loudspeaker message can be heard saying: “Go home and don’t gather here, it’s just an earthquake. We have a lot of experience when it comes to earthquakes.” A man told the BBC he fled the 30-storey building after feeling the tremors. When he realized he was trapped, he shouted, “Which is more important? The closure or the earthquake?”
There are no reports linking earthquake deaths to restrictions on residential use, but comments have been received nonetheless. It’s a joke that we’re discussing this,” a man said on the Chinese blog site Weibo. The post had already been viewed more than 3.7 million times on Tuesday. Another man said sarcastically, “I guess it’s okay if I die in this building, at least I’m not injured.”
The Chengdu Health Commission later posted on its official WeChat account that “priority should be given to securing the lives of the public in the event of earthquakes, fires, floods and other disasters.”
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