A large earthquake has hit Kyegundo in Kham, which is part of Tibet. Western media sources have reported this as taking place in “northwest China” or “Qinghai,” and described the affected area as “inhabited by ethnic Tibetans” or “part of the Tibetan plateau.” This is not accurate – Kham is part of Tibet and is, as such, inhabited by Tibetans.
It’s being reported that the earthquake has claimed 400 lives and injured 10,000 people. The entire surrounding county only has a population of around 90,000 and Xinhua is reporting that 85% of homes have collapsed. The devastation must be unimaginable.
High Peaks Pure Earth has compiled and translated some early response from the Tibetan internet, including blogs and social media platforms. Included in the clips is a poem from a Tibetan netizen in response to the earthquake.
My Loved Ones
Dears, my only relatives
You are my everything, in this world, my everything
It’s only because of you that I live
It’s only because of you that I can feel joy, sorrow
Before I get there, you mustn’t leave me
Before I rescue the lost lambs
You mustn’t abandon me
You are all my guardian spirits — my everything
I will always serve and revere you
Promise me, you won’t leave me so soon
Promise me, you won’t leave me alone
Promise me, that I will still be able to see your bright smiles in my dreams
Promise me, your hands will stay warm like the sun’s rays
I will always pray for you, my brethren, my loved ones.
You all must stay alive.
One thing that is deeply worrying is that many of the casualties seem to be connected to the concrete block residences and buildings the Chinese government has built and forcibly moved Tibetan nomads into. Free Tibet Campaign in the UK has a statement out that suggests traditional Tibetan wooden homes may have fared better during the quake, though I think it’s likely too early to tell these things.
These concrete buildings and homes have been part of a long-standing Chinese government policy to forcibly move Tibetan nomads and herders into set places and non-traditional Tibetan houses. It’d be a cruel twist if the homes that the Chinese government forced Tibetan nomads into against their will became literal death traps in this disaster.