Mon, September 10, 2012
China > Mainland

Rescuers make an all-out effort in Yiliang, Yunnan

2012-09-09 23:09:51 GMT2012-09-10 07:09:51(Beijing Time)  China Daily

People push a rescue vehicle on a landslide-hit mountain road linking the Luozehe Township in Yiliang County, southwest China's Yunnan Province, Sept. 9, 2012. Continuous aftershocks increased the difficulty of the rescue work in Yiliang, hit by a 5.7 magnitude earthquake on Sept. 7. Rescuers made an all-out effort to ensure the traffic of the road linking the hardest-hit zone. (Photo/Xinhua)

A landslide occurs on a mountain road linking the quake-hit Luozehe Township in Yiliang County, southwest China's Yunnan Province, Sept. 9, 2012. Continuous aftershocks increased the difficulty of the rescue work in Yiliang, hit by a 5.7 magnitude earthquake on Sept. 7. Rescuers made an all-out effort to ensure the traffic of the road linking the hardest-hit zone. (Photo/Xinhua)

Rescuers run to take shelter from falling rocks on a mountain road linking the quake-hit Luozehe Township in Yiliang County, southwest China's Yunnan Province, Sept. 9, 2012. Continuous aftershocks increased the difficulty of the rescue work in Yiliang, hit by a 5.7 magnitude earthquake on Sept. 7. Rescuers made an all-out effort to ensure the traffic of the road linking the hardest-hit zone. (Photo/Xinhua)

An armed police medic examines a patient who was injured in Friday’s earthquake in Yiliang county, Yunnan province, on Sunday. (Photo/China Daily)

Officers and soldiers of PLA Chengdu Military Area Command load quake-relief materials at an airport in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan Province, Sept. 9, 2012. Multiple earthquakes struck Yiliang County and neighboring areas in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Friday, killing at least 81 people. The PLA Chengdu Military Area Command has bridged an air lifeline, sending 13 tons of quake-relief materials and transfering three severely wounded people so far. (Photo/Xinhua)

Officers and soldiers of PLA Chengdu Military Area Command help medical staff to rescue injured person on an aerotransport, Sept. 9, 2012. Multiple earthquakes struck Yiliang County and neighboring areas in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Friday, killing at least 81 people. The PLA Chengdu Military Area Command bridged an air lifeline by sending 13 tons of quake-relief materials and transfering severely wounded people. (Photo/Xinhua)

Rescuers are battling falling rocks and traffic jams to save lives and send aid to survivors, three days after tremors devastated an area of Southwest China's Yunnan province.

A 3.7-magnitude aftershock on Saturday evening killed one person, bringing the death toll to 81. Two earthquakes, with magnitudes of 5.7 and 5.6, hit Yiliang county, Zhaotong city, on Friday .

More than 800 people were injured and thousands of homes collapsed, according to the county authority.

The central government has allocated 1.05 billion yuan ($160 million) to disaster relief, while the Ministry of Civil Affairs has sent 10,000 emergency tents in addition to the 11,000 tents provided by Yunnan's Department of Civil Affairs.

"We have resettled 175,000 people affected by the earthquakes," said Cheng Lianyuan, vice-mayor of Zhaotong. "We are handing out tents, quilts, clothes, water and rice to them, to ensure they have food, shelter and medical treatment."

More than 7,000 rescuers, including doctors, soldiers and officials, are working around the clock to help survivors, but their work is being hampered by falling rocks and congested roads.

"For us, the job is not only about rescue work, but also to ensure the safety of our soldiers," said Li Xingshun, commander of an artillery battalion in the Chengdu Military Area.

His battalion sent 135 soldiers to the scene and they have received orders to make 1,900 tents for villagers. They are among 4,100 soldiers sent from military forces stationed in neighboring Sichuan province.

Li, one of the rescuers in the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan, said his soldiers are now searching for survivors in remote mountain areas. He said the rescue is less difficult than in 2008 but more dangerous, as there is a greater danger of landslides.

On some sections of the road leading to Luozehe township, the area hardest-hit by the tremors, pedestrians run at full speed to get through, as rocks and sand continue to fall from steep slopes beside the road. Huge rocks and vehicles twisted by rocks can still be seen on the road.

At a work conference on Sunday, officials and military officers said the large number of vehicles, including military vehicles, ambulances and trucks, on roads leading to the disaster zone is delaying the efficiency of the rescue.

"There are too many vehicles, and many seem to have just gone in to have a look," said Liu Jianhua, mayor of Zhaotong.

The disaster relief headquarters is considering imposing roadblocks.

Congestion was further aggravated on Sunday, as it took more than two hours to get on and off the road used for the rescue, which is less than 12 kilometers long.

By 4 pm, 289 tremors measuring under 5.9 had occurred, and there is a possibility there will be stronger quakes, said Chen Qin, deputy director of the Yunnan Earthquake Administration, at a news conference.

The quakes happened in a relatively poor, mountainous area and brought heavy casualties, Huang Fugang, director of the administration, was quoted as saying by China Central Television.

The area is also intersected by steep mountains, making it prone to secondary disasters such as landslides, he said.

As of Sunday, 2,283 volunteers have registered with the county government, and 1,300 of them had been arranged in six teams to Yiliang for various services, according to the information office of Zhaotong.

"However, we suggest volunteers from outside the city do not come to the quake area, as factors such as the complex landscape, continuous aftershocks and imminent strong rainfall can easily cause more disasters," the office said.

Xu Xingxiang, a student at Yiliang No 1 Middle School, said she has been providing volunteer work such as helping carry relief materials and put up tents since Friday.

"Our school was damaged during the earthquakes, and we are waiting at home to be notified about when the school will reopen. So I think it might be a good idea to work for the earthquake victims," she said.

Weather forecasts are predicting the disaster zone will experience heavy rain on Monday and Tuesday, and temperatures will drop sharply.

In Luozehe, residents have been relying on instant noodles and are sleeping on the ground in schools and a cement factory.

Many soldiers are sleeping under trucks away from buildings, due to fears over aftershocks.

Shops have been closed and residential buildings abandoned. A noodle shop is offering free instant noodles and water.

A primary school halfway up a mountain is now shelter to more than 300 residents, including many elderly people and children. Cai Jihong, a teacher at the school, said almost half of the villagers have chosen to move away from the township, as power and water supplies have been out since the earthquake.

"Mostly families with elderly people have chosen to stay because cars can't move in and it's too difficult for the older people to walk," he said.

Cai is now the only teacher at the primary school. All the other teachers have left.

Wu Huacong, a migrant worker in Zhangzhou, Fujian province, was walking toward his quake-affected home village on Sunday.

"No messages have come out of the village since the earthquake. I simply can't concentrate on my work," the 25-year-old said.

To return to his hometown Wu took a three-day train journey and then a bus to Yiliang. He will have to walk more than 10 hours on mountain roads and climb over a cliff to reach the village. "Electricity has been cut and there is no cellphone connection. I need to know what is going on in my village," he said.

Related news:

Help on the way to quake-hit areas

Premier Wen inspects quake-hit Yiliang County, SW China's Yunnan

Telecommunications restored in China's quake-hit region

Rescuers work round the clock

Death toll from China quake rises to 81

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