More than five years ago, a seismologist had warned of a strong earthquake in China's Sichuan province, where the most devastating quake in more than three decades occurred on Monday killing thousands of people, the state media reported.
Seismologist Chen Xuezhong of the Geophysics Institute of State Seismological Bureau (SSB) had made his forecast long ago based on historical records and animal studies, the state-run China Daily said.
A 7.8-magnitude quake struck Sichuan yesterday afternoon, toppling buildings, leaving thousands buried under the rubble, and causing tremors across several cities in China, including Beijing and Shanghai, and which even shake Bangkok in Thailand and Hanoi in Vietnam.
"Sichuan is virtually certain to experience an earthquake measuring above seven in the next few years. We must be prepared for a big earthquake after 2003," Chen, a senior researcher with the SSB, wrote in a paper published in December 2002 in the periodical 'Recent Developments in World Seismology', the newspaper said.
In the article, Chen said Sichuan stood a "big chance" of being hit by a huge temblor due to its location. Records since 1800 showed the average interval between major quakes in the province was about 16 years, it said.
Sichuan has experienced frequent big temblors since 1900, the longest interval between them being 19 years and the average being 11 years, the paper said.
The area had however not seen any major earthquake measuring above seven for 26 years, since the big temblor that struck its Songpan and Pingwu counties in 1976, it said.