1981 Dawu earthquake

The 1981 Dawu earthquake occurred on 24 January at 5:13 a.m. CST,[1] in Sichuan, China. Registering a surface wave magnitude of 6.8, the earthquake killed about 150 people and injured roughly 300 more. It caused comprehensive damage within close range of its epicenter.

1981 Dawu earthquake
1981 Dawu earthquake is located in Sichuan
1981 Dawu earthquake
UTC time1981-01-23 21:13:50
ISC event633084
Local dateJanuary 24, 1981 (1981-01-24)
Local time05:13:50 CST
Magnitude6.8 Ms
Epicenter30°56′N 101°06′E / 30.93°N 101.10°E / 30.93; 101.10Coordinates: 30°56′N 101°06′E / 30.93°N 101.10°E / 30.93; 101.10
Areas affectedSichuan, China
CasualtiesAbout 150 dead; roughly 300 injured


China has an extensive history of catastrophic earthquakes that ranges back to 1290. The first verified earthquake took place in Chih-li, killing roughly 100,000 people. The next great earthquake was probably the 1556 Shaanxi earthquake, the most devastating earthquake of all time. Roughly 830,000 were killed by the event. Other earthquakes in 1917, 1918, 1920, 1923, 1925, 1927, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1948, 1950, 1966, 1969, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1976 each killed at least one thousand people. Since 1981, earthquake fatalities have diminished greatly, though have not been stopped. As recently as 2008, an earthquake in Sichuan killed nearly 90,000 people.[2]


The epicenter was pinpointed to Dawu County in Sichuan. Its official magnitude was 6.8 and its surface wave magnitude reached 6.6.[1]

A moderately well controlled focal mechanism indicates that the earthquake was probably a result of left lateral strike-slip faulting[1] on the Daofu fault. The Daofu fault forms part of the Xianshuihe fault system, which experienced a sequence of four earthquakes greater than 6.0 between 1973 and 1982, with each event triggering the next in the sequence by changing the stress state.[3] A 44 km surface rupture has been reported for the 1981 earthquake.[4]

Damage and casualtiesEdit

The earthquake killed roughly 150 people and 300 or so were injured. Damage was considerable, but limited to a small zone around the area.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Significant Earthquakes of the World - 1981". United States Geological Survey. 5 January 2010. Archived from the original on 11 October 2012. Retrieved 22 December 2010.
  2. ^ "Historic World Earthquakes - China". United States Geological Survey. 23 November 2009. Archived from the original on 28 July 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2010.
  3. ^ Zhang, Q.; Zhang P.; Wang C.; Wang Y. & Ellis M.A. (2003). "Earthquake triggering and delaying caused by fault interaction on Xianshuihe fault belt, southwestern China". Acta Seismologica Sinica. 16 (2): 156–165. Bibcode:2003AcSSn..16..156Z. doi:10.1007/s11589-003-0018-5. S2CID 128487233.
  4. ^ Zhou, H.; Liu, H.; Kanamori, H. (1983). "Source processes of large earthquakes along the Xianshuihe Fault in southwestern China" (PDF). Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. 73 (2). Retrieved 2010-02-06.[permanent dead link]

External linksEdit