Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Rescuers aid China quake victims

A village woman reacts after her house was damaged by an earthquake in Lushan county, Ya'an, southwest China (AP)
Soldiers view the damage caused by an earthquake in Gucheng village, Lushan County, Ya'an City (AP/Xinhua, Hai Mingwei)
Houses were destroyed during a powerful earthquake in Taiping town, Lushan County, in Ya'an City (AP/Xinhua, Liu Yinghua)

Chinese relief crews have hurried food, water and other supplies into the rural hills of China's Sichuan province, two days after an earthquake killed at least 188 people and injured more than 11,000.

Rescuers reached the most cut-off communities in Baoxing and Lushan counties, though heavy machinery and trucks bearing supplies moved slowly along roads partly blocked by landslide debris. Repairmen hoisted ladders up against electrical poles to fix power lines.

The delivery of relief supplies, while not enough to meet all the demand, marked headway as frustrations grew among survivors.

Near an old house that had crumpled by the roadside in Lushan, about 2,000 people gathered early on Monday to complain about the lack of food. A few jumped on to a motorised three-wheel cart to look for officials, and 20 minutes later a truck pulled up and distributed instant noodles. At another street corner, a truck handed out bottled water.

"We're so grateful for these donations," said Ji Yanzi, who was loading cartons of bottled water on to a three-wheeled vehicle to take to her family of 10, including ageing parents. "At this point, we don't have much except a tent we made ourselves and some food we were able to pull out from our apartment."

Large parts of Lushan and other towns have been turned into makeshift encampments for people whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Saturday's quake or are too scared to stay indoors.

The quake was among the deadliest China has seen in the past three years. The China Earthquake Administration said that 188 people had died, another 25 remain missing and more than 11,000 were injured. More than 2,000 aftershocks have rattled the area since the quake, the agency said.

The quake, which the earthquake agency measured at magnitude-7 and the US Geological Survey put at 6.6, occurred farther to the south on the same fault line where a devastating 2008 quake killed more 90,000 people. Because Lushan and Baoxing were largely spared in 2008, they also had not benefited from the massive rebuilding efforts and its emphasis on earthquake safety.

Luo said he wished more had been done to make his community's buildings quake-resistant. "Maybe the country's leaders really wanted to help us, but when it comes to the lower levels the officials don't carry it out," he said.

Relief teams flew in helicopters and blasted through landslides with dynamite on Sunday to reach some of the most isolated communities, where rescuers in orange overalls led sniffer dogs through piles of brick, concrete and wood debris to search for survivors.

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