An earthquake warning system along the world's highest railway, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, is expected to go into operation in August in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.
The Nagqu seismic observation station, linked to 10 earthquake monitors, is based about four kilometers northeast of Nagqu Town, a stop on the railway 4,500 meters above sea level.
The station is part of the seismic warning network the central government plans to complete by the end of 2010 at a cost of 13 million yuan (US$1.67 million) along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, said Cao Zhongquan, vice director of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Seismological Bureau.
Cao said the Nagqu post was the first earthquake monitoring station in Tibet capable of providing warnings along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.
Construction of the post has been completed and it will begin trial operation in August.
The system, capable of monitoring all earthquakes above three on the Richter scale in China, would focus on northern Tibet to provide advance warnings, said Chen Yaming, head of the seismic observation program.
The post would also closely monitor the Qinghai-Tibet Railway as moderate quakes measuring up to six occurred most years in the area the railway passed through, said Chen.
"About 5,000 people take the railway every day. At the Nagqu post, we can better ensure their safety and minimize quake damage," he said.
Trains would stop automatically within minutes of the station warning of an earthquake, and rescue teams would be dispatched. "We cannot specify exactly how far in advance we can forecast an earthquake, but if one is near, even a second can save lives," Chen said.
Before the new system, there was only one earthquake warning station near Lhasa to cover the entire Tibet Autonomous Region.
Cao played down concerns over safety on the railway, saying the engineers had taken the special conditions of the plateau into consideration from the start, and many precautions had been included.
"No earthquake has been recorded along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway during its first year," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency June 20, 2007)