Wed, October 08, 2008
China > Mainland

Ministry officials aid Tibet quake relief

2008-10-08 01:23:39 GMT2008-10-08 09:23:39 (Beijing Time) China Daily

A policeman distributes food to victims of quake in Damxung, Tibet Autonomoust Region October 7 2008. More than 700 rescuers have arrived in the area as part of relief efforts. [Xinhua]

Rescuers help put up tents for residents in the safe area of the quake-hit Damxung, Tibet Autonomous Region October 7, 2008. [Xinhua]

The central government is sending officials to Tibet as part of quake relief, following a tremor that left 10 confirmed dead and another 34 injured, the State Disaster Relief Commission said Tuesday.

The latest quake relief team, which left Beijing for the disaster area Tuesday morning, consists of officials from the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Finance.

Local authorities Tuesday confirmed the latest death toll from the 6.6-magnitude temblor, which hit Damxung county of Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet autonomous region, on Monday.

The latest quake fatality came from a high school in Shannan prefecture, the region's vice-chairman, Gong Puguang, said at a press conference.

The school in Nagarze county was evacuating its students during the tremor when a stampede broke out, killing one teenager and injuring another 15, Gong said.

Tibet's regional government reportedly decided to close all schools in Lhasa Tuesday due to safety concerns.

The temblor struck Damxung at 4:30 pm on Monday. Xinhua News Agency earlier reported that at least 30 were killed in the quake, but revised the figure later.

The quake killed nine and injured 19 others at its epicenter, hitting mostly women, children and the elderly, the news agency reported.

All 19 villagers injured in the quake have reportedly been hospitalized in Lhasa.

Most of the men were away mowing and storing forage grass for the winter, said Tsering Samdrup, a resident of Yangyi, the worst-hit village, where nine died, 18 were injured and 171 homes were destroyed.

"I can't believe it," said Nyima, a Tibetan herder who lost her 2-year-old daughter. "Now our family of nine is reduced to eight."

Tenzin Chodrak said he was putting extra hay into the sheepfold when his home collapsed. "My brother's son died and my mother was injured," he said.

Lamas have also been called in to perform rituals for the dead before their "celestial burial", a traditional Tibetan funeral practice.

No one else was buried in the Yangyi village debris, rescue headquarters said.

Shortly after the quake-damaged road to Yangyi was restored, injured villagers were taken to two hospitals in downtown Lhasa.

"Most of them suffered trauma or bone fractures," said Tashi Namgyal, president of the People's Hospital, the main hospital in Lhasa where seven injured villagers were being treated.

The other 12 injured were admitted to the General Hospital of Tibet's Area Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Hao Peng, vice-chairman of Tibet's regional government, visited the injured at 4 am on Tuesday. Doctors described the condition of the victims as stable.

PLA troops stationed in Lhasa were reportedly among the first to arrive after the quake. They helped people out of the ruins, pulled out dead bodies and visited every family to check on survivors and gather information on the missing.

Similarly, the regional government is carrying out an emergency response plan and at least 700 rescuers using life detection devices are at the quake zone.

Troops and rescue dogs are also searching the rubble for those who may be trapped, while health workers have been deployed to examine villagers and prevent epidemics from breaking out in the area.

Tents, food and water are now being trucked in to the villages hit by the earthquake, after rescuers opened a main road Tuesday. Food, drinking water and quilt supplies for victims are currently adequate, Xinhua reported.

With at least 191 houses collapsed from the quake, rescuers started building makeshift homes for residents Tuesday morning.

"We have finished putting up 280 tents to accommodate all 171 families whose houses collapsed in Yangyi village," said Yang Lin, Damxung's deputy head.

Almost every home in Gedar town, which stands 4,560 m above sea level, suffered cracks from the quake. Ensuring that the town's 4,000 people are kept warm was a priority, said an official with the county's Civil Affairs Bureau.

The Tibet Division of the Chinese People's Armed Police Force (PAPF) has also sent a detachment of 300 to Damxung county to set up tents to ensure that all of the homeless villagers are sheltered as soon as possible, officials said.

In addition, the PAPF headquarters have reportedly ordered its units in Tibet to closely monitor the situation in the region and to spare no efforts to rescue affected people.

Another 20 residential buildings were destroyed in neighboring Nyemo county, but no casualties were reported.

The Sichuan-Tibet highway was also reopened Tuesday after three days of closure due to falling rocks.

"The highway was not damaged by the earthquake, but we are ready for any potential accidents," said Xiang Mingqing, an officer with the People's Armed Police exercising traffic control.

The major Qinghai-Tibet railway and Lhasa's airport have maintained normal operations following the quake, while historic structures such as the Potala Palace have reportedly not been affected.

Still, the regional earthquake-monitoring network said it had observed 1,211 aftershocks as of 10 am Tuesday, including one above 6.0 on the Richter scale.

China Daily-Xinhua

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