China Dispatches Thousands to Rescue Gansu Quake Survivors

China dispatched thousands of police, soldiers and government officials to search for survivors of an earthquake that struck the northwestern province of Gansu yesterday as the death toll rose to 94.

The 5.9-magnitude quake struck at 7:45 a.m. local time yesterday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The official Xinhua News Agency said the temblor hit near the city of Dingxi and measured it at magnitude 6.6, citing the China Earthquake Networks Center.

Gansu’s Communist Party Secretary Wang Sanyun, the province’s most-senior official, visited villages damaged by the quake yesterday and called on rescuers to bolster their efforts and to “reduce the loss to the lowest level,” the Gansu Daily newspaper reported today. Chinese President Xi Jinping called yesterday for an “all-out” rescue effort and to make saving lives the top priority, Xinhua reported.

The temblor injured 1,001 people, left one missing and caused the collapse or severely damaged 127,000 homes, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said on its website, citing statistics gathered as of 2 p.m. today. The quake, which lasted about a minute, was felt in Lanzhou as well as in Xi’an, the capital of neighboring Shaanxi province, Xinhua said.

Gansu’s Wang also called on doctors and nurses at a local hospital to helped those injured by the quake. Most of those affected were from poor families, for whom a permanent disability could hurt their ability to work, Wang was cited by the Gansu Daily as saying.

Deadly Quakes

Western China has been struck by several deadly earthquakes in the past five years. An April quake that hit Sichuan province killed at least 196 people. In 2010, a 6.9-magnitude quake in Qinghai province killed about 2,700 people and a 7.9-magnitude quake that struck Sichuan in 2008 left more than 87,000 people dead or missing.

Chinese authorities yesterday dispatched two helicopters and 6,000 rescuers, including armed police, firefighters, militiamen and local government workers, to the quake area to help with rescue efforts, according to Xinhua.

Some rescue efforts were hampered by breakdowns in communication services and blocked roads as soldiers were forced to abandon their trucks and proceed on foot, China National Radio reported. Rain is forecast for today, which may complicate rescue efforts, it said.

— With assistance by Michael Forsythe, and Penny Peng

(Updates with the latest death toll in first paragraph.)
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