TIME Photos

The 22 Most Surprising Photos of the Month

From dogs suckling tiger cubs to earthquake skaters, each photograph will surprise you as TIME shares the most outrageous images from August 2014

TIME natural disaster

How 10 Seconds Could Save Lives During Earthquakes

Napa Area Businesses Continue Recovery Effort From Earthquake
A crack runs down the center of an earthquake-damaged street in Napa, Calif., on Aug. 26, 2014 Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

California eyes warning system after latest quake

Ten seconds could save your life. That’s the message from researchers developing an early-warning system in California that could eventually alert the public an earthquake is about to hit.

The research program, run by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in partnership with several California universities, is still in beta form, but was put to the test last weekend when an earthquake struck the Napa area. At the University of California, Berkeley, to the south, the system detected and sent out a warning signal to the scientists about six seconds before the tremor reached the area.

The technology behind the system uses sensors across the state that detect early waves from an earthquake before the main event strikes. While it’s not possible to issue warnings to those located right next to an earthquake epicenter, those further away could be warned seconds or even a minute in advance.

Doug Given, USGS’s early-earthquake-warning coordinator, says 10 seconds might not seem like a lot, but it could be enough for people to take cover before an earthquake hits and for public services and private industry to take precautionary steps. This might include systems that force elevators to let passengers off at the closest available floor and those that let first responders know they should open garage doors ahead of tremors so they can quickly begin search-and-rescue missions afterward. Given says other applications include letting hospitals know an earthquake is coming, so they can prepare doctors and patients. “If you’re in an MRI machine, you might want them to pull you out before it starts shaking hard,” says Given. Likewise, he says surgeons performing delicate operations — on eyes, for example — could have notice that their work is about to be interrupted.

“Imagine being a dental chair,” says Margaret Vinci, manager of the Office of Earthquake Programs for the California Institute of Technology, one of the colleges partnering with USGS. “Would you not want that dentist to pull that drill out of your mouth?”

Given and Vinci also say a statewide early-earthquake-warning system could tell rapid transit systems to slow trains to help prevent derailments. A similar alert program exists in earthquake-prone Japan, where earthquake warning alerts automatically slow bullet trains.

Japan and Mexico are two countries that already have the kind of earthquake-warning system California lacks. Devastating quakes in those countries prompted major public investments in such systems. As recently as April, residents in Mexico City had a full minute of warning before a 7.2-magnitude quake 170 miles away rocked the capital.

California’s program, though, is hobbled by lack of adequate funding, according to Given, who says the program needs an investment of $80 million over five years and about $12 million a year to maintain operations. California passed a law recently calling for a statewide early-earthquake-warning system to be set up, but did not provide funding. Given says the program currently includes about 400 sensors set up around the state, but needs at least double that figure for the warning system to be fully functional. “We hope we will be the first country that builds its system before the big earthquake rather than after,” Givens says.

Investments in the system itself wouldn’t include spending by local governments and private businesses that would need to establish response plans, and possibly automated systems, to take advantage of the USGS warnings. As for the public, earthquake warnings could be sent out via text message and through local television and radio stations, but that too requires advance planning and spending. Vinci says if the early-warning system was fully funded, it could be ready for public consumption in two years.

In the meantime, researchers involved in the project are asking public and private organization to test whether the alert system works and offer suggestions about how to improve it. Disneyland, the city of Long Beach and the Bay Area Rapid Transit system are among those serving as testers. Researchers are also studying which kinds of warning sounds and signals work best with the public. When activated, the existing system, which is called ShakeAlert and which runs on computers for those involved in the program or serving as beta testers, kicks in to tell users an earthquake is coming, how soon it will happen and how severe the shake will be. The warning includes a loud quick buzz with a speaker saying, ”Earthquake! Earthquake!”

“Right now the ShakeAlert we have now is kinda scary,” Vinci says.

TIME Quantified Self

This Is What Happens When You Sleep Through an Earthquake

Jawbone's Up 24 wristband
Jawbone's Up 24 wristband Jawbone

It's not good

The largest earthquake to hit California’s Napa Valley in 25 years struck near the Bay Area early Sunday morning. The 6.0-magnitude quake hit at 3:20 a.m. local time near American Canyon, about 6 miles southwest of Napa, at a depth of 6.7 miles. Nearly 90 people were injured—and countless more woken up, disturbed, and generally freaked out. Thanks to the quantified self phenomenon—the always-on activity and sleep trackers many people now wear—we know more than ever about the psychic effects of such an event.

Jawbone, the San Francisco-based maker of fitness trackers, analyzed data from its users to see how the quake affected sleep across the Bay Area. The company’s UP device is a slinky bracelet that monitors movements and sleep. Here’s what Jawbone found:

Napa, Sonoma, Vallejo, and Fairfield were less than 15 miles from the epicenter. Almost all (93%) of the UP wearers in these cities suddenly woke up at 3:20AM when the quake struck. Farther from the epicenter, the impact was weaker and more people slept through the shaking. In San Francisco and Oakland, slightly more than half (55%) woke up. As we look even farther, the effect becomes progressively weaker—almost no UP wearers in Modesto and Santa Cruz (and others between 75 and 100 miles from the epicenter) were woken up by the earthquake, according to UP data.

Perhaps not surprisingly, once awoken, residents near the quake took a long time to get back to sleep. According to the company’s data, “45% of UP wearers less than 15 miles from the epicenter stayed up the rest of the night.” The visualization below, provided by Jawbone’s senior data scientist Brian Wilt, shows sleep changes based on proximity from the epicenter. The company says the results of its study are statistically significant.

Jawbone

[Jawbone]

TIME natural disaster

Northern California Earthquake Leaves Area Devastated

The worst earthquake in California's Napa Valley in 25 years left scores injured and widespread damage in its wake

TIME weather

Earthquake Hits Hawaii as it Braces for Two Hurricanes

Hawaii Braces For Multiple Hurricanes
In this handout provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from the GOES-East satellite, four separate weather system (L-R) Halong, Genevieve, Iselle, and Julio are tracked in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of the United States Getty Images

No damages were immediately reported

A 4.5-magnitude earthquake rattled Hawaii’s Big Island on Thursday morning just as residents prepare to weather twin hurricanes.

There were no reports of damage yet, Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira told the Associated Press, and small quakes like this are “not uncommon.”

“We felt a pretty good shake,” Joanna Cameron, owner of the Kohala Club Hotel, told TIME of the tremor at 6:24 a.m. local time. Cameron’s hotel is located close to the epicenter, estimated 7 miles from Waimea. She plans to keep the hotel open throughout the storm despite numerous cancellations and the closures of nearby schools and businesses.

“We have an earthquake this morning,” she added. “Now the sun is coming out and we’ll have a hurricane at 4 p.m. No one is enjoying this.”

Hurricane Iselle is expected to strike the Big Island on Thursday night, followed by Hurricane Julio. Hawaii hasn’t been directly hit by a hurricane in 22 years and, according to ABC meteorologists, this will be the first to ever impact the Big Island.

When asked what’s next, Cameron replied: “Locusts.”

— Additional reporting by Jonathan D. Woods

TIME China

Death Toll in Southwest China Quake Rises to 589

China Earthquake
A woman stands next to an injured child near a damaged house following Sunday's earthquake in Longtoushan, Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Tuesday, August 5, 2014. Andy Wong—AP

More than 2,400 people are also injured

(LUDIAN, China) — The death toll in southern China’s earthquake rose to 589 on Wednesday as search and rescue teams pushed into isolated mountain communities to clear debris from collapsed homes.

The Yunnan provincial government said more than 2,400 people were injured in Sunday’s 6.1 magnitude quake in the mountainous Yunnan farming region of Ludian county — the country’s deadliest temblor in four years.

At a makeshift headquarters in the forecourt of a cracked middle school in the worst-hit town of Longtoushan, a senior colonel in the People’s Liberation Army said there might still be hope to find survivors.

“There are a lot of people that we may never be able to dig out,” said senior Col. Feng, who declined to give his full name because he was not an officially designated spokesman. “But there is still hope.”

Wednesday’s big jump in the death toll — up from 410 on Tuesday — was due to rescuers arriving in places where they had previously been unable to contact anybody, in small farming villages built into the mountains above the main towns, said Feng, a military officer based in Sichuan province.

Thousands of troops and hundreds of volunteers have rushed to Ludian to dig out possible survivors from the debris, but landslides and bouts of heavy rains have complicated rescue efforts.

The quake struck an area of steep hills and narrow roads that are not well suited to all the traffic of the massive relief effort. Landslides have shorn shear rocky faces into the region’s valleys.

The weather was clear Wednesday and the roads into Longtoushan were clogged with rescue vehicles, ambulances and military jeeps along with residents and volunteers on foot.

The region is prone to earthquakes. In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people. In September 2012, a series of quakes killed 81 people.

In May 2008, a powerful quake in Sichuan province left nearly 90,000 people dead.

TIME China

China Quake Death Toll Nears 400 With Rain Hampering Rescue Efforts

Villagers sit in front of their destroyed house following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Aug. 5, 2014.
Villagers sit in front of their destroyed house following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Aug. 5, 2014. Andy Wong—AP

Thunderstorms and huge downpours are forecast for the next three days, forcing rescuers to race against the clock

As rescuers continue to sift through the rubble left by a 6.5 magnitude earthquake that struck southwestern China’s Yunnan province on Saturday, heavy rain and landslides are slowing down rescue efforts and the delivery of desperately needed supplies to survivors — with worse weather to come.

Thunderstorms and torrential downpours are forecast over the next three days for Ludian County, one of the worst affected areas, forcing thousands of troops, police and other aid workers to race against time.

The death toll in what local officials say is the most destructive earthquake to strike the mountainous area in years is now 398, with 1,801 injured, China’s official news agency Xinhua reports. Over 411 aftershocks have also been recorded, some as high as 4.9 magnitude.

Around 80,000 homes have been destroyed, and 124,000 others seriously damaged, the Yunnan Civil Affairs Bureau said on its website. And though some 230,000 people have been evacuated, thousands more remain threatened by aftershocks, landslides and floods. A lake has formed near the Hongshiyan hydropower station and is rising at one meter per hour, engulfing homes, forcing further evacuations, and threatening several power stations downstream, the South China Morning Post reports.

Collapsed infrastructure means that many survivors have yet to be reached. “The blocked roads and the continuous downpours have made some disaster areas inaccessible for heavy relief vehicles,” Liu Jianhua, a local party official, told Xinhua.

A volunteer teacher in Longjiang Village, Huang Min, told the Post that the situation was desperate. “We’re in desperate need of food, water, tents and electricity,” Huang said.

Yunnan province is prone to earthquakes. A series of tremblors in 2012 killed 81 and injured over 800.

TIME China

Earthquake in China Kills at Least 589

Infrastructure and buildings in remote area of Yunnan province left in ruins after huge temblor

Update: Aug. 6, 10:05 a.m. ET

At least 589 people were killed after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit a rural area of Yunnan province on Aug. 3, causing several buildings to collapse. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake was less than a mile below the ground.

TIME

China’s Red Cross Is Still Dealing With a 3-Year-Old Scandal Involving Sex and Fast Cars

A 2011 imbroglio involving a young woman's feigned connection to China's biggest charity could hamper a drive to raise relief funds for victims of an earthquake in Yunnan province that has claimed at least 381 lives

+ READ ARTICLE

On Aug. 3, the ground shook in southwestern China, crumbling homes and killing around 400 residents of a remote, mountainous part of Yunnan province.
 
Six years earlier, when a much greater earthquake ravaged neighboring Sichuan province, extinguishing some 90,000 lives, the state-run Red Cross Society of China was flooded with generous donations from Chinese nationwide. This time, however, there are fears that the public won’t be as generous — and that’s all because of a certain 23-year-old maiden named Guo Meimei, who once claimed to be a “commercial general manager” of an entity related to the Chinese Red Cross.
 
Guo almost single-handedly ruined the organization’s reputation in 2011, when she posted pictures of herself jet-setting in business class, and cavorting in a Maserati and Lamborghini. Today, the Red Cross, the nation’s biggest charity, is having to plead with the public to focus on the devastation in Yunnan and forget about the scandal.
 
Showy displays from China’s nouveau riche aren’t anything new, but Guo shattered confidence in the Chinese charity at a time when the public had already begun to question just how aid organizations spend their money. In the wake of the Guo affair, donations to the Chinese Red Cross dipped. (Her notoriety was such that someone designed a fake TIME cover with her pretty, pouting image on it.)
 
On Sunday, the same day as when the temblor of at least 6.1 magnitude struck Yunnan, China’s state-run media released highlights from a confession Guo made in which she owned up to various misdeeds, such as helping to run an illegal gambling ring in Beijing and offering sexual services, including a $60,000-evening tryst. (Official news agency Xinhua noted that most of Guo’s sexual partners were foreigners.)
 
Arrested last month, Guo — whose name means “beautiful, beautiful” — now languishes in a Beijing detention center. CCTV, the Chinese state broadcaster, aired images of her stripped of makeup and clad in a prison-orange vest. Another alleged gambling-ring member was quoted by Xinhua describing Guo as “particularly evil, unscrupulous.” The lengthy Xinhua exposé described what it said was Guo’s unsavory family background: a father with a fraud conviction, a mother who ran a sauna, an aunt once suspected of harboring prostitutes and an uncle jailed for drug trafficking.
 
Then, there was her purported “godfather,” the man who may have linked her to the Red Cross, through an organization bearing the unlikely name of the Red Cross Chamber of Commerce. According to Xinhua, Guo met a wealthy southern Chinese real estate investor surnamed Wang when she was just 19-years-old. Soon, she was surrounded by luxury cars and other baubles. On social media, she changed her stated profession from “actor singer” to the Red Cross Chamber of Commerce’s “commercial general manager.”
 
Wang, married with kids, is now in jail. The CCTV segment meanwhile captures Guo in tears, disavowing any relationship with the Red Cross. “I made a huge mistake because of my vanity,” Guo is quoted as saying in the Xinhua report. “My mistake brought severe damage to the Red Cross’s reputation … I want to say sorry to the Red Cross and sorry to the masses, especially to those vulnerable people who do not get relief.”
 
Seeking to further distance itself from the Guo affair, the Chinese Red Cross released a statement on Monday morning reiterating that the disgraced young lady was not a staff member and that her fortune had no connection to the charity or its funds:

Such slanders [linking Guo to the Red Cross] not only affect social justice, mislead the public and disturb public order, but they also do serious damage to humanity, public welfare and philanthropy. As a time-honored charitable organization, the Red Cross of China has been dedicated to providing humanitarian relief to the vulnerable. We sincerely hope the public will continue to support and participate in our undertaking.

 
Nonetheless, the salacious details about Guo and her sugar daddy have kept Chinese social media buzzing. “How can a prostitute be so rich?” asked one person on the Sina Weibo microblogging service. Another expressed enduring skepticism in the charity she once claimed to have represented: “No matter what the Red Cross says, I will never donate money to them.” So far, the Chinese Red Cross says it has donated 2,000 quilts, 2,000 jackets and 200 tents to the victims of the Aug. 3 Yunnan earthquake. The charity refused to speak to TIME about Guo.
 
With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Beijing

TIME China

Strong Earthquake Kills 381 in Southwest China

#CHINA-YUNNAN-ZHAOTONG-EARTHQUAKE (CN)
Rescuers transport injured people after an earthquake in Zhaotong City in the densely populated Ludian county in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Sunday Aug. 3, 2014. Zhang Guangyu—Xinhua/AP

In one of the strongest earthquakes that has struck the Southern Chinese province of Yunnan in recent years, a 6.1 quake hit Ludian city on Sunday, killing 381 people and injuring 1,891

(BEIJING) — Rescuers dug through shattered homes Monday looking for survivors of a strong earthquake in southern China’s Yunnan province that killed at least 381 people and injured more than 1,800.

About 12,000 mostly brick homes collapsed when the quake struck Sunday afternoon in the impoverished Ludian county, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) northeast of Yunnan’s capital, Kunming, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The streets of Ludian county seat of Zhaotong were like a “battlefield after a bombardment,” resident Ma Liya told Xinhua. She added that her neighbor’s house, a new two-story building, had toppled, and said the quake was far worse than one that struck the area in 2012 and killed 81 people.

“I have never felt such strong tremors before. All I can see are ruins,” Ma said. “The aftermath is much, much worse than what happened after the quake two years ago.”

The magnitude-6.1 quake struck at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday at a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Its epicenter was in Ludian county township of Longtoushan. China’searthquake monitoring agency put the magnitude at 6.5.

Rain and thunderstorms were forecast for the area in the coming hours, complicating efforts to bring tents, water food and other relief supplies to survivors. Roads had caved in, and rescuers were forced to travel on foot.

Xinhua and state broadcaster CCTV said 381 people were killed, citing rescuers. CCTV said 1,891 were injured, three were missing and 29,400 had been evacuated. The death toll was expected to rise, once rescuers reached remote communities to assess casualties.

Many of the homes that collapsed in Ludian, which has a population of about 429,000, were old and made of brick, Xinhua said, adding that electricity and telecommunications were cut off in the county.

The mountainous region where the quake occurred is largely agricultural, with farming and mining the top industries, and is prone to earthquakes.

Relief efforts were underway, with more than 2,500 troops dispatched to the disaster region, Xinhua said. The Red Cross Society of China allocated quilts, jackets and tents for those made homeless by the quake, while Red Cross branches in Hong Kong, Macau and neighboring Sichuan province also sent relief supplies.

Premier Li Keqiang was en route to Yunnan to oversee quake relief, Xinhua said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered “his condolences to the Chinese Government and the families of those killed,” according to a statement from his office. The statement said the U.N. is ready to “lend its assistance to efforts to respond to humanitarian needs” and “to mobilize any international support needed.”

The White House also offered its condolences.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those that lost their lives,” said National Security Council deputy spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan. “The United States stands ready to assist.”

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said the quake was the strongest to hit Yunnan in 14 years.

In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people, and a magnitude-7.1 quake in the province killed more than 1,400 in 1974. In September 2012, 81 people died and 821 were injured in a series of quakes in the Yunnan region.

In May 2008, a powerful quake in Sichuan province left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing.

___

Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen and researcher Henry Hou contributed to this report.

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