China is building the world's largest earthquake early warning system

By the end of this year, China's EEWS will be fully functional.
Sejal Sharma
The wreckage of a collapsed building after the earthquake in Turkey
The wreckage of a collapsed building after the earthquake in Turkey


China is building the world’s largest Earthquake Early Warning System (EEWS) which covers over 15,000 monitoring stations, three national centers, 31 provincial centers, and 173 prefectural and municipal information release centers, reported CGTN.

The head of the China Earthquake Administration (CEA), Min Yiren announced that the main construction work of the system has been completed, and by the end of this year, the EEWS will be fully functional.

EEWS doesn’t predict earthquakes. During an earthquake, many kinds of seismic wave activities form in the quake's epicenter. The first waves are usually weaker but the faster-moving waves trigger systems like EEWS. The EEWS detects ground motion as soon as an earthquake starts to develop and sends a signal to the data processing centers. 

What’s the location? How big is the earthquake? Who is going to feel it?

Algorithms quickly find out the earthquake's location and magnitude. The data processing centers in turn quickly send alerts across cities and towns that a tremor is on its way. This gives people crucial seconds to prepare because every second matters during an earthquake.

Although people living near the epicenter will have little to no warning, those living far away will have the critical time to brace themselves. EEWS may help prevent death, injuries, and infrastructural damage that we see typically associated with earthquakes of great magnitude.

If the recent Syria-Turkey earthquakes have taught us anything, it is that we need a global EEWS. The combined death toll of the disaster stands at around 60,000, with over 120,000 injured.

Wang Tun, head of a key earthquake early warning laboratory in China's Sichuan Province, told Global Times that the Syria-Turkey disaster was a reminder to all governments in the world of the significance of setting up a global network of early warning. China, with its experience in building world-leading EEWS, can share the international community with its experience and technologies, he added.

Wang, who has helped develop EEWS in China, said, “With an early warning of several seconds to 60 seconds, the death toll in an earthquake can be reduced by 30 percent.”

After the Syria-Turkey devastating earthquake hit, China started to quickly deploy satellites to help analyze the disaster situation and allocate relief resources.

China, since the 1990s, has carried out the construction of various EEWS and built an instant seismic intensity reporting system in 2018 in several high-stakes regions. The system can give a countdown in seconds of the upcoming earthquake and detect an earthquake within a minute of its occurrence. 

Yiren, in his press conference, also announced that a trial operation for the new EEWS has been available in some of its quake-prone areas like Sichuan, Yunan, Beijing, Tianjin municipalities, Hebei Province, and Fujian Province.

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