Rescue teams pulled 150 survivors from the rubble in the 72 hours after an earthquake in southwestern China destroyed buildings, ruined roads and left thousands without shelter.
The death toll from the 6.6-magnitude temblor, which hit Sichuan province on April 20, rose to 193 as of 6 a.m. yesterday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Crews put up 1,151 tents and ferried 1,827 tons of water to the area, and the Ministry of Civil Affairs has dispatched a further 30,000 tents, Xinhua reported
The quake, in the same region as one in 2008 that killed about 87,000 people, spurred calls from Vice Premier Wang Yang and other top officials for rapid action amid concern that aftershocks and damaged roads could slow rescue efforts. By yesterday afternoon, the focus began to shift toward taking care of those left homeless by the quake.
“We are not hungry or thirsty for now, but I am worried about what comes next,” said Fu Guilan, a 49-year-old woman as she sat with relatives outside a tent in the village of Qinglong in the earthquake zone. “My house is destroyed. It cost me my life savings and I don’t have money to rebuild it.”
China’s State Council urged people to donate funds for reconstruction and told non-emergency personnel to stay out of the disaster zone to ease road congestion. Traffic was barred from highways to make way for vehicles carrying rescuers and supplies. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Qin Gang said rescue efforts were making progress and international rescue teams weren’t necessary.
The Ministry of Finance has earmarked 1 billion yuan ($162 million) for rescue and relief work. In the town of Longmen, teenagers turned up for classes held in a green camouflage tent set up next to a soccer field. Some smaller children appeared to be suffering from trauma after the quake, said Zhao Hong, a psychiatrist with the Sichuan Mental Health Center in Mianyang, who traveled the 200 kilometers (124 miles) to Longmen to help with relief work after the quake.
“We saw about 10 toddlers with symptoms such as non-stop crying and refusing to talk,” Zhao said. “The most important treatment is teaching parents to recognize their children are ill, and to pay more attention to them.”
The earthquake, measured at magnitude 6.6 by the U.S. Geological Survey, has injured 12,211 people and left 25 missing as of 6 a.m. local time yesterday, Xinhua said.
The quake area will see light to moderate rain today, the China Meteorological Administration said yesterday in a statement on its website. Thunder and lightning will accompany the rain, the administration said.
Landslides cut off roads and knocked out power and phone systems, hampering efforts by relief teams to get to villages in the more remote parts of Lushan county where the quake hit. Aftershocks, insufficient relief supplies, and congested and damaged roads delayed rescue efforts, China Central Television reported.
As of 8 p.m. yesterday, the region had experienced 3,667 aftershocks, Xinhua reported, citing the China Earthquake Administration.
Power has been restored to 179,600 households affected by the earthquake, leaving about 7,000 with electricity, Xinhua said yesterday. About 19,000 soldiers and armed police officers have been sent to the Lushan area, about 1,650 kilometers southwest of Beijing, while the Ministry of Public Security has sent more than 2,300 firefighters to help with rescue work, according to Xinhua.
Direct economic losses from the earthquake are estimated at more than 10 billion yuan, far less than the 2008 quake, Barclays Plc said on April 22.
Gao Xunqun, 54, waited at the bus station in Ya’an to go to her home in the village of Tianquan, with no idea of what to expect once she arrived. Because the road to her home is blocked, she’ll have to walk some of the way, she said.
“My son is working in Guangdong and there’s no one left in the house,” Gao said. “It’s my home, my only home, I have to see it, otherwise I won’t sleep.”
— With assistance by Xin Zhou, and Daryl Loo