Students at Jinxi Primary School in Huaihua, a prefectural-level city in Hunan province, got a jolt Tuesday morning as two “distinct rocking movements,” each lasting six to seven seconds, hit the upper floors of the school shortly after morning classes began. At 11:40am, a post made by Huaihua News, a Sina Weibo account with nearly 60,000 followers, sounded an alarming note, saying Jinxi Primary School was “tofu architecture,” a term referring to substandard and unsafe structures built with cheap materials:
Huge news! The school building at Jinxi Primary School in Huaihua is a tofu structure. It’s already leaning and its collapse is imminent. Parents, go and get your children.
The post shared a photo of Jinxi Primary School, apparently with teachers and students gathered outside in the schoolyard. (Here is the city of Huaihua on our Media Map, with a link to the official Party newspaper, Huaihua Daily.)
By Tuesday afternoon, the above post had been removed from Huaihua News. And at 5:41pm, the Weibo account posted in its place an official notice from the education department of the Huaihua city government that was apparently made earlier in the afternoon. The notice suggests that within the space of four hours a full and thorough investigation has taken place, and students are now able to return to the school.
Notice Concerning the Situation of Tremors Occurring at Jinxi Primary School
On May 28, 2013, at 8:15am, two distinct rocking movements occurred on the west side of the Jinxi Primary School building, each lasting for about 6-7 seconds. After these incidents occurred, the school immediately instituted emergency response procedures, sounding an emergency alarm and evacuating students and staff to the sports ground within 3 minutes. In order to protect the safety of students and staff, the city’s education department ordered a suspension of classes at the school, and at 10am the school notified parents and asked them to pick up the students at school. As of now, the emotions of the students and teachers are basically sound.
Following the incident, city leaders gave this top priority. The city’s deputy secretary and mayor Li Hui (李晖) phoned himself to learn more about the situation and make arrangements for the necessary work. The city’s deputy mayor, Ouyang Ming (欧阳明), and education chief Yang Changhong (阳畅宏) went immediately to the school to investigate the situation. They arranged for the heads of the [local] earthquake bureau (地震局), planning bureau (规划局), construction office (建设局), the school builders and designers, construction contractors, and supervision inspectors as well as technical personnel to go to the site and confer. Based on onsite surveys by earthquake and quality supervision authorities, the school building has not experienced cracks, nor is it leaning, nor is there damage to the surface of the walls. The cause of the tremors was construction work being carried out in the sports field adjacent to the building. A pavement roller at work caused tremors that caused a resonance effect to the school building. Right now, the education department is making arrangements for Jinxi Primary School to resume classes this afternoon.
We hope that city residents, students and parents do not heed erroneous information and rumours, that they return quickly to normal and productive lives and studies. We hope that city residents, students and parents believe in science. The construction quality of Jinxi Primary School has been determined to be safe and reliable by construction quality supervision and earthquake authorities, and [the school] can entirely be used as normal. We hope that relevant authorities further build on knowledge and training for earthquake and disaster preparedness, actively raising their scientific IQs and their capacity to deal with earthquakes and other safety issues.
Huaihua City Education Department
May 28, 2013