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China Quake Rescuers Rush to Isolated Areas


Zhang Bin, a Chinese People's Liberation Army soldier, carries a 60-year-old survivor down a stretch of road, Lingguan township, April 22, 2013.

Zhang Bin, a Chinese People's Liberation Army soldier, carries a 60-year-old survivor down a stretch of road, Lingguan township, April 22, 2013.

Aftershocks and landslides continue to challenge rescue efforts in China’s Sichuan province on Monday as teams rush to reach isolated parts of the quake-struck area.

China's worst earthquake in the past three years, which struck early Saturday, has already left 188 people dead and toppled or damaged more than 170,000 buildings and homes.

Authorities say the region has experienced more than 2,200 aftershocks since Saturday, making it difficult to reach some parts of the province.

Xinhua news agency says the first team of rescue workers arrived in Baoxing Monday. Authorities say the road was cut off by an aftershock-triggered landslide.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

State media say hard-hit parts of Lushan county were also not reachable by road, with phone services cut off. But rescuers have since dynamited highways to clear landslide debris, allowing heavy equipment to reach affected areas, and electricity and phone services have been restored to thousands of people.

China's official Xinhua news agency says rescue workers on Sunday saved nine villagers trapped in mountainous Lushan county. Those rescued were all elderly and children, with the eldest being 85 years old and the youngest only two.

Volunteers mobilize

According to authorities, thousands of displaced people are living in tent cities set up by the Red Cross, and food and water is being distributed to the homeless. President Xi Jinping has ordered all-out measures to rescue victims and minimize casualties following the disaster.

While calls for much-needed supplies are growing, many locals are also volunteering to help out directly.

Sun Miao, a third-year student at Sichuan Music Academy has been working in the provincial capital of Chengdu over the past three days as donations pile up.

Every day between 6 and 7 p.m., she said, a minibus distributes the materials her group has collected. They prioritize distribution of the most urgently needed items, and if their bus has trouble reaching certain areas, they use motorbikes, small carts, or even go on foot.

Although Sun has not been to any of the affected areas, she has posted pictures online that her fellow volunteers have taken from areas in the quake zone.

In one photograph a man is seen using a car and extension cord to charge phones on the side of a dark road.

"Some of the truck drivers have been working all day and used their phones, so by night they don't have any charge left," she said. "Shops on the streets help them charge their phones, and while it has been difficult and there are obstacles, people make do."

Even in some of the most remote areas, social media is playing a crucial role in helping families look for loved ones, organizing volunteer efforts and providing a platform to spread concerns even from the remotest of corners of Sichuan.

Postings on China’s Weibo microblog service include reports from Baoxing County and complaints from residents about the slow arrival of food, aid and tents.

Painful memories

Although areas such as Baoxing escaped the Wenchuan quake's destruction, Ya’An, the epicenter of Saturday’s earthquake, did not.

During the 2008 quake, more than 600,000 homes were damaged there and nearly 100,000 were left homeless. The majority of deaths from Saturday’s quake occurred in Ya’An.

Sichuan official Chen Kefu says that at least 410,000 are in need of temporary assistance.

"Of those who need temporary assistance, more than 170,000 need help with temporary shelter," he said. "There are those who need food, some need water and others need clothing and blankets."

Saturday’s quake was measured a magnitude-7 by Chinese authorities and 6.6 by the U.S. Geological Survey. It struck on the same fault line as a devastating 2008 Wenchuan earthquake that left nearly 90,000 people dead.

Xinhua said the quake rattled buildings in the provincial capital, Chengdu, 115 kilometers to the east.

The incident brings back painful memories for Sichuan, which suffered a 2008 earthquake that killed more than 70,000 people.

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