Tue, April 20, 2010
China > Mainland > 7.1-magnitude quake hits Qinghai

More hope amid ruins

2010-04-20 03:38:40 GMT2010-04-20 11:38:40 (Beijing Time)  Global Times

Tibetan Buddhist nuns light butter lamps for earthquake victims inside a tent in Jiegu, Yushu county, in Qinghai Province Monday. Chinese President Hu Jintao called on rescuers Sunday to keep searching for survivors as he visited victims of the earthquake. Photo: AFP

With the death toll from a devastating earthquake in northwest Qinghai Province surpassing 2,000 Monday, rescuers freed three more survivors who had been trapped in the rubble for more than 100 hours.

In all, the 7.1-magnitude quake that struck Yushu prefecture early Wednesday morning has claimed 2,039 lives, and officials put the total still missing Monday at 195, with 12,135 reported injured.

People cheered Monday as rescuers pulled two survivors from the quake debris at about 11 am in Gyegu.

Urgyan Tsomo, a 68-year-old man, and Tsering Belkyi, a 4-year-old girl, had been trapped for at least 123 hours.

They were said to have survived so long because their families sent them water and porridge through cracks in debris.

Separately, an unidentified Tibetan woman was dug out alive Monday after being trapped for 130 hours.

The Qinghai Civil Affairs Department pledged Monday to care of children orphaned in the quake.

They were still ascertaining the exact number of quake orphans, but many people have already contacted the department to inquire about adoptions, a spokesman for the department said.

With 195 people still missing, the focus of the rescue operation shifted Monday from towns to remote villages.

Da Jie, a 61-year-old Tibetan woman who lives in a small village more than 4,000 meters above sea level, was saved after rescue workers from China International Search and Rescue (CISR) climbed up a hill to treat injured people. She had received serious injuries to her legs and was trapped in her cottage on the hill for six days.

"If her leg wounds, which have been festering, aren't dressed soon, she risks amputation," said Hou Yuke, head of CISR.

Tents, food and other supplies were being delivered to quake victims in the town of Gyegu and farther into the mountainous region.

In the first few days after the quake jolted his hometown, Cai Rang was desperate for food and water. But going on a week since the quake, the Tibetan said food and accommodations are no longer a worry.

"Truckloads of rescue materials, including milk, instant noodles, water and ham sausages, are flowing into the quake-hit areas from across the country. The food in storage at my home could serve a whole family for a couple of days," he said.

But despite relief materials from home and abroad still being hauled to the disaster area, limited and busy transportation routes are impeding relief efforts.

Wang Xiaohong, a manager of the Sichuan Xinshu Company, said the possibility of a logistical problem is growing as all roads in Yushu have been clogged with vehicles carrying relief materials.

"When I first helped transport materials April 14, I found only a few vehicles on the road. But now, as materials from various channels flow to quake-hit areas, the road has become jammed," he explained.

Frequent aftershocks have also made it difficult to deliver supplies to people in need.

By Sunday night, debris caused by landslides at Yushu airport highway had been cleared up, and it took just half an hour for vehicles to reach Gyegu from the airport.

However, because of the continuous aftershocks, the highway was struck by another major landslide Monday, and transport authorities sent personnel to oversee the road conditions.

Statistics from the China Earthquake Administration showed that there had been 1,206 aftershocks as of 8 am Monday.

While the rescue operation is still ongoing, post-quake reconstruction of Yushu is already on the agenda.

The plan is to turn Yushu into a plateau eco-tourism city, a spokesman for the Qinghai provincial government said Monday.

A 16-member team from the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the provincial housing bureau is already conducting a field study across the quake-hit zone.

They plan to hand in a disaster-assessment report to the ministry by Monday.

Two aircraft sent Saturday by the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping have finished collecting digital images and radar data of the quake zone to help with the reconstruction work.

Zou Ming, director of the disaster relief department of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said over the weekend that the geological assessment will be referred to when deciding whether to rebuild Gyegu at a new location or rebuild it on the ruins.

Death on high

A reporter is said to have died of a high-altitude pulmonary edema after catching a cold, an official with the provincial rescue headquarters told the Shenzhen-based Jingbao newspaper Monday. However, the information had not been confirmed.

Cold and snowy weather is forecast for the area in the coming days.

Zhang Mingying, chief engineer with the Beijing Municipal Weather Service, said that rain and snow in the coming days in the quake-hit area could create pros and cons for the disaster relief and rescue work.

"On one hand, low temperatures are likely to impede transportation of rescue materials, especially if roads to Yushu become icy because of the freezing temperatures," he said.

But he also noted that precipitation will contain and minimize the spread of germs and dust.

Monday, six days after the quake, businesses in some parts of Yushu began resuming.

Four banks in Yushu had reopened, the China Banking Regulatory Commission said Monday.

On Minzhu road, small stores and groceries also reopened, with a few monks and Tibetan customers seen shopping.

"This is the first day my grocery store has been open since the earthquake. I will put some of my goods on sale as a means to contribute to post-quake reconstruction," the shop owner, who only gave his surname as Zhang, told the Global Times.

The Ministry of Commerce said Monday that it had sent 3,000 heating stoves and some mobile shops to Yushu.

The mobile shops will arrive in Xining, the provincial capital, by tomorrow and be transported to Yushu after being loaded with relief supplies.

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