At Least 589 Dead After Strong Quake in Western China
April 15, 2010 by Post Team
At Least 589 Dead After Strong Quake in Western China:Soldiers and civilians used spades and their bare hands to dig through collapsed buildings for survivors after strong earthquake struck a mountainous region of Tibet on Wednesday, killing at least 589 people and injuring more than 10,000 .
The series of earthquakes flattened buildings throughout the remote west of Yushu County and sent the survivors, many bleeding from his wounds, flooding in the streets of the town of Jiegu. State television showed block after block of devastated mud and wooden houses overthrown. Local officials said 85 percent of the structures had been destroyed.
The residents and troops stationed in the city used shovels and their hands to pull survivors and bodies from the rubble much of the day. Several schools collapsed, the state news agency saying that at least 56 students died. The worst blow was the Yushu Vocational School, where Xinhua quoted a local official saying that the education of 22 students died.
Footage Qinghai Satellite Television showed bodies wrapped in blankets on the floor, while rescuers pulled chunks of concrete from a school building pancake.
The teams set up emergency generators to restore operations at the airport in Yushu, and in the afternoon the first of six flights landed carrying rescue workers and teams. But the road to town was blocked by a landslide, hampering the rescue as temperatures fell below zero. Tens of thousands of the city 70,000 people left homeless, state media said.
The airport in Xining, the nearest town about 530 miles (860 kilometers) away, was filled early on Thursday with Chinese troops in camouflage, firefighters and rescue teams leading dozens of sniffer dogs. They were bussed out for the hard drive of the quake zone, it takes 12 hours under the best conditions.
Xuesong Yang, a lifeguard in the province of Shandong in eastern China, said his biggest concern was the altitude. “This is the highlands. Do not know if the search dogs can get used to it,” he said.
While China’s military is widely practiced in disaster response, the remote location posed logistical problems. The area is located at about 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) and is poor. Most people live in Jiegu, and the remaining – mostly pastors – scattered in wide valleys. The small airport has no supply of fuel supply, so that relief flights carrying additional jet fuel, reducing its ability to move supplies, state media reported.
“The situation here is difficult. Most of the buildings have collapsed. Many people are seriously injured,” said Pu Wu, director Jinba Project, which provides training in health care for Tibetan communities. “We are afraid. We all camped out and waiting for more tents to come.”
The quake relief headquarters premises in 589 dead and 10,000 wounded early Thursday morning, according to Xinhua news agency. Wu Yong, commander of the army garrison, said the deaths “could rise further as a lot of houses collapsed.” Hospitals were overflowing, and rescue teams were delayed by damaged roads, high winds and frequent aftershocks.
Song Luo, a monk from a monastery in Yushu County, said his sister who worked in an orphanage told her three children were sent to a hospital, but the facilities lacked equipment.
“She said that hospitals are facing many difficulties at this time because there are no doctors, only have bands, can not give injections, they can not put people on intravenous drips,” the monk said by telephone during a visit to the city South China’s Shenzhen. China’s rural hospitals are generally not well equipped.
Workers released water from a nearby reservoir, whose dam was broken by the quake, according to the China Earthquake Administration.
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao urged “all-out efforts” to rescue the survivors and sent a deputy minister to oversee the effort. Immediately, the government allocated 30 million U.S. dollars (200 million yuan) for relief, and mobilized over 5,000 soldiers, doctors and rescue workers, joining 700 troops already in the ground.
With many people forced out, the provincial government said it was running 5,000 tents and 100,000 coats and blankets to the region, where average daily temperatures were about 43 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius).
The initial quake, measured at magnitude 6.9 by the U.S. Geological Survey and 7.1 by the Center for China Earthquake Networks, Yushu struck at 7:49 am (7:49 pm EDT, 2349 GMT). It was followed by five earthquakes of more than three hours, all but a record of 5.0 or higher.
Jiegu residents, known by Tibetans as Gyegu, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the epicenter, fled distraught and crying as the ground shook, knocking down houses and churches, gas stations, electric poles and the top of a pagoda Buddhist in a park, witnesses and state media.
“Almost all the houses made of mud and wood collapsed. There was so much dust in the air, we could not see anything,” said Ren Yu, general manager of hotels in Yushu Jiegu. “There was a lot of panic. People wept in the streets. Some of our employees, who were reunited with their parents, were also in tears.”
More than 100 guests of the hotel, which was relatively in good condition, were evacuated to the open spaces and public squares, Ren told The Associated Press by telephone. After transporting guests to safety, hotel staff helped in the rescue efforts in other buildings, said Ren.
“We took 70 people, but some of them died on the way to hospital,” Ren said, adding other survivors were put in tents in the courtyard of the hotel while waiting for help.
Many of the students addressed in schools and were preparing to lead the class when the quake struck. A rescue worker said he did not know how many students had died, but he had helped recover the bodies of several.
“Students stood up and were yet to go to class when the quake struck. I have recovered several bodies from the rubble and discovered that they were dressed completely,” said Zhu Liang, a government employee who joined the rescue operation.
The destruction of schools is a mysterious echo of the massive magnitude-7.9 earthquake that hit neighboring Sichuan province two years ago, leaving nearly 90,000 people dead or missing. Thousands of students among the dead were killed when their schools collapsed. a bad design, shoddy construction and lax enforcement of building codes proved to be rampant.
Both Wednesday and the earthquake in Sichuan occurred two years ago along the Longmenshan fault that runs beneath the mountains that divide the Tibetan plateau to the west and the Sichuan plain below.
Messages of sympathy arrived from the Pope at the Vatican, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader revered by Tibetans often fervently Buddhist and vilified by Chinese leaders, who accuse him of promoting separatism.
Once a commercial center and a gateway to central Tibet, Yushu and its surrounding environs were among the Tibetan areas caught in anti-government protests that swept the region in March 2008. Tensions have simmered since then, and the region has been closed to foreigners from time to time.
The garrison troops were the first to respond to the earthquake is parked in the area to help maintain order. CCTV reported that shortly after the quake, the troops secured banks, oil depots and warehouses of explosives.
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