China / Society

Rescue in full swing after quakes claim 80 lives in SW China

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-09-09 13:30

YILIANG, Yunnan - China is pouring aid into a mountainous area in Yunnan Province after multiple earthquakes on Friday had killed 80 people and injured more than 800 others. More than 11,000 tents, 8,500 quilts, 6,000 coats and other relief materials including bottled water and rice have been delivered to the hardest-hit Yiliang County in Zhaotong City, and more are on the way, the rescue headquarter said Saturday.

State and provincial civil affairs authorities earlier said they had sent 21,000 tents, 31,000 quilts and 26,000 winter coats to Yunnan for disaster relief.

The headquarter said more than 11,000 rescuers were working to clear roads, evacuate residents and search for the missing. More than 7,200 soldiers and militiamen had been mobilized as of Saturday evening to help with the rescue.

Officials said the death toll may climb further, as the quakes have seriously damaged telecommunications and traffic infrastructure, making it difficult to collect information.

Another 820 people were injured in the two quakes, which hit an area near Yiliang County in Yunnan and Weining County in Guizhou Province at 11:19 am and 12:16 pm Friday, respectively, and were followed by more than 60 aftershocks.

Some 200,000 people in Yunnan have been relocated, as more than 6,600 houses had been destroyed and another 430,000 damaged. Direct economic losses are estimated at 3.5 billion yuan ($552 million), according to the provincial civil affairs department.

Horror moments

In Yunnan's Luozehe township, one of the hardest-hit areas near the epicenter, Wu Yuanyin said he saw rocks cascade down the mountains and the river suddenly swell after houses collapsed into the water.

The town was built in a valley and along a river, and the tremors have sent rocks falling down the slope, which crushed houses and vehicles.

Local resident Zhang Zhenglian was preparing lunch for her family on Saturday on a school playground, where dozens of people have been relocated.

"Our houses all collapsed and all our furniture was destroyed," she said.

At the People's Hospital of Yiliang county, Luo Facui was receiving treatment for a head injury.

"I was cooking lunch when the ground started shaking. A rafter fell from the roof and knocked me out," she said.

Luo's husband said neighbors and rescuers saved his wife after their house collapsed. He was not at home when the quake occurred.

The county's education bureau said three primary school students were among those killed in the quakes.

Zhou Guangfu, deputy chief of the bureau, said the students were attending class at the Yunluo Primary School in Jiaokui township when the first quake occurred.

Zhou said there were 15 students in the school at the time of the first quake, eight of whom were buried. Teachers and villagers rescued five of them.

Classrooms in more than 300 high and primary schools were also damaged and classes there had been suspended, Zhou said.

Zhou said the bureau would inspect the county's schools before allowing classes to resume.

In neighboring Guizhou, two people had been reported injured as of 1 a.m. Saturday, with 28,000 people relocated.

More than 40 houses collapsed and more than 13,000 houses were damaged, with direct economic losses reaching 190 million yuan, the province's civil affairs department said.

Aid pouring in

President Hu Jintao, who is in Russia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, has called for immediate efforts to help with disaster relief work.

Premier Wen Jiabao arrived at the quake zone early Saturday, stressing rapid, all-out efforts to search for survivors within the first 72 hours critical for post-quake rescue operations.

Wen reached Yiliang County around 1 am Saturday and spent a sleepless night visiting quake survivors in villages and hospitals.

The quakes have cut off electricity and triggered landslides that have blocked roads, creating complications for rescuers trying to reach some outlying villages. Meteorological authorities said the rains in the region would also hamper rescue efforts.

A statement by the Ministry of Finance on Saturday said it had allocated 1.05 billion yuan ($165.58 million) as relief fund to Yunnan.

The Ministry of Agriculture also earmarked 500,000 yuan to Yunnan for post-quake epidemic prevention work. Local authorities have started disinfection work after thousands of cattle were reported killed.

China National Petroleum Corporation, the country's largest oil producer, has sent more than 100 tons of gasoline and over 200 tons of diesels to Yunnan as of Saturday morning, with 14 tons of gasoline reaching Yiliang County and 24 tons aerial coal supply arriving at the airport in Zhaotong.

In a notice on Saturday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China urged airports nearby to ensure prioritized transportation of quake relief materials and personnel.

Experts from the Ministry of Land and Resources have also reached the quake-hit areas in Yunnan to provide assistance on precautions of further geological disasters.

A 40-year-old man in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province who claimed to be a poet who was climbing the barren mountain in search of creative inspiration, somehow became stranded on a cliff on Thursday.

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