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Chinese Expert Says Chile Quake Part of New Activity Phase

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An anecdote from the ancient Chinese book Liezi tells a story about a man from the state of Qi who was so obsessed with the thought that the sky might fall that he had no appetite for food nor could sleep well.

Recently some people have developed a similar anxiety over a hypothesis no less catastrophic to mankind. And the threat lies beneath our feet.

Xu Xiangyu, a 6-grader at Beijing No 2 Experimental Primary School, cried out "2012" when he first heard about the Chile earthquake, associating it at once with the Hollywood movie, which depicts a doomsday-like situation caused by strong earthquakes.

And his worry is by no means unfounded.

Extreme weather has been reported this winter in many places around the world: blizzards in Northern Europe, America and Asia, heat waves in South America and Australia, heavy snows in North China and severe droughts in the South. Now, Chile has been hit by a massive earthquake registered 8.8 on the Richter scale, less than two months after the devastating Haiti quake of 7.3 magnitude claimed nearly 290,000 lives.

Sun Shihong, a senior researcher with CEA China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC), said the world did look like it was entering a new phase of earthquake activity. The latest movements of the earth's crust undoubtedly demonstrated an "active state." "They are not abnormal, though. The earth has its life cycle, guided by it own rules," he said.

Sun, a chief forecaster with CENC before retiring in October 2008, has been closely observing earthquake trends.

The Haiti and Chile earthquakes were related, Sun believed. "In terms of earthquakes, the world seems to have entered a new phase. It may have started in late 2004 when a 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked the eastern part of Indonesia," he said.

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