An earthquake measuring 5.1 degrees on the Richter scale jolted a county in
north China's Hebei Province at 11:56 a.m. (Beijing Time) Tuesday, according to
the State Seismological Bureau (SSB).
No casualties are reported at press
time, according to the bureau.
The earthquake was a shallow-focus one, with
its epicenter being around 110 kilometers from Beijing and about 80 kilometers
from Tianjin. So the quake was clearly felt in the two cities, said Zhang
Hongwei, a spokesman for the bureau.
But the tremor would not cause any
damage to Beijing, Zhang said.
Coming a few days after the proposal of a an absurd law that could result in fines for news media that report "sudden" news items without approval (see Danwei story: Draft bill: Breaking news stories to be illegal), this earthquake provoked a storm of mobile phone text messages and MSN conversations amongst Chinese media circles.
The Big One would hit Beijing at 2pm, said one rumor, later revised to 5 pm, and then 7 pm, as the rumored Big One stubbornly refused to arrive.
Which made clear a very pertinent point about the recent proposed law that threatens to fine news media for reporting 'unauthorized' stories about breaking events: The function of news media during a time of emergency is to gather as many facts as possible and present a version of the truth that is better researched than casual text messages. Any law that hinders the process of sorting the facts from the rumors is a bad law. The law is a lost cause anyway. The information floodgates are already open. Here for example is a blog post from Xujin that links to handfuls of first person accounts of the earthquake on a bunch of blogs hosted on Hexun, which is affiliated with Caijing magazine: North China earthquake: Hexun blog special focus (华北发生地震 和讯博客聚焦).
The image reproduced above is taken from Xujin's blog post: it's a map made from Google Earth of the earthquakes epicenter.
*中文新闻:河北地震不会对北京造成破坏 - Xinhuanet.com
河北文安县发生5.1级地震 - CCTV, 新闻联播
北京近期不会发生破坏性地震 - China.com