China Focus: Massive rescue under way after Yunnan quake

Posted at 11:00 under a-noticias-ingles

Ludian, Yunnan, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) — The death toll from a 6.5-magnitude earthquake in southwest China’s Yunnan Province has risen to 398 with three missing, latest official statistics showed on Monday.

As of 2 p.m. on Monday, the strong quake had affected 1.08 million people in Zhaotong City and Qujing City, injured 1,801 and necessitated the emergency evacuation of about 230,000, according to the Yunnan Civil Affairs Department.

Nearly 80,000 rooms of 25,500 households collapsed in the quake and 124,000 rooms of 39,200 households were seriously damaged, the department said.

The deaths include 319 in Ludian County, 66 in Qiaojia County, one in Zhaoyang District and 12 in Huize County. Three are missing in Qiaojia.

Rescuers are racing against time to save lives after the quake struck at 4:30 p.m. Sunday (Beijing Time) with a depth of 12 km. The epicenter is in Longtoushan Township, Ludian County.

Yunnan has sent 7,000 rescuers, including 5,000 soldiers, police officers and firefighters, to Zhaotong and Qujing.

More than 4,000 servicemen and paramilitary reserve forces of the Chengdu Military Area Command have participated in the rescue work.

Another 300 servicemen from the command are on their way to deliver relief materials in 110 vehicles. Over 600 of the command’s medical workers are treating the injured.

The command has also dispatched six helicopters to the quake zone.

Quake-triggered landslides have blocked roads to the worst-hit areas, making it very difficult to transport injured residents and relief materials, several rescuers told Xinhua.

Their work has been hampered by continuous downpours, which have disrupted traffic, lowered temperatures in the remote area, and made food and medicine shortages even more dangerous.

Thundershowers and downpours are forecast in Ludian over the next few days, and temperatures could drop to 17 degrees centigrade at night.

Late on Sunday night, President Xi Jinping ordered that authorities concerned give top priority to saving people’s lives, minimize casualties and guarantee a proper settlement for quake victims.

As of Monday morning, 1,363 people have received medical treatment in the quake-hit areas, said the provincial health department. Four died despite doctors’ efforts.

Eighteen medical rescue teams are on their way to the quake zone.

Rescuers have evacuated residents threatened by a lake which was formed by the quake in Jiangbian Village, Zhixiang Township of Huize County. It had inundated 20 houses.

The quake is the strongest to hit Yunnan in 14 years, according to Zhang Junwei, an official with the Yunnan Earthquake Administration.

Ludian has a population of 400,000, or a density of 265 people per sq km, far above the average of 110 people per sq km in Yunnan, said Zhang.

Houses, mostly made of wood, bricks and concrete, were too fragile to resist the quake. All these factors contributed to the heavy casualties, he said.

As of 3 p.m. on Monday, 460 aftershocks have been recorded in the quake-hit region, including four measuring between 4.0 and 4.9 magnitude, said Li Fei, spokesman for the Yunnan Earthquake Administration.

Traffic on a main road linking the Longtoushan and the county seat eased on Monday morning after hours of gridlock after the quake. Large numbers of the injured are being transferred to the county’s hospital via the road by ambulance.

Officials with the Yunnan Provincial Department of Civil Affairs told Xinhua that a large number of tents, cotton quilts and fold-out beds had been stored in Zhaotong and Ludian, but there have been problems having them delivered to the quake-hit areas.