Rescuers struggle to reach China quake zones as death toll rises

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Rescuers struggled to reach a remote, rural corner of southwestern China
on Sunday as the toll of the dead and missing from the country's worst
earthquake in three years climbed to 203 with almost 1,000 serious
injuries.

The 6.6 magnitude quake struck in Lushan county, near the city of Ya'an in the southwestern province of Sichuan, close to where a devastating 7.9 quake hit in May 2008, killing 70,000.

Most of the deaths were concentrated in Lushan, a short drive up the valley from Ya'an, but rescuers' progress was hampered by the narrowness of the road and landslides, as well as government controls restricting access to avoid traffic jams.

"The Lushan county centre is getting back to normal, but the need is still considerable in terms of shelter and materials," said Kevin Xia of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

"Supplies have had difficulty getting into the region because of the traffic jams. Most of our supplies are still on the way," Xia said.

In Ya'an, relief workers from across China expressed frustration with gaining access to Lushan and the villages beyond, up in the mountains.

"We're in a hurry. There are people that need help and we have supplies in the back (of the car)," said one man from the Shandong Province Earthquake Emergency Response Team, who declined to give his name.

The Foreign Ministry thanked foreign governments for offers of help, but said the country was able to cope.

"At present, Chinese rescue and medical capabilities are guaranteed and relief resources are sufficient," it said.

In Lushan, doctors and nurses tended to people in the open or under tents in the grounds of the main hospital, surrounded by shattered glass, plaster and concrete. Water and electricity in the area were cut off by the quake, but the spring weather is warm.

"I was scared. I've never seen an earthquake this big before," said farmer Chen Tianxiong, 37, lying on a stretcher between tents, his family looking on.

Nearby, an elderly woman sat dazed mumbling to her son, while nurses wiped blood from another woman's foot as her husband cradled her head.

In another tent, Zhou Lin sat tending to his wife and three-day-old son who were evacuated from a Lushan hospital soon after the quake struck on Saturday.

"I was worried the child or his mother would be hurt. The buildings were all shaking. I was extremely scared. But now I don't feel afraid any more," said Zhou, looking at his child as he slept soundly wrapped in a blanket on a makeshift bed.

Premier Li Keqiang flew into the disaster zone by helicopter to comfort the injured and displaced, chatting to rescuers and clambering over rubble.

"Don't be sad, we will rebuild after this disaster and your new homes will be even better than before," state media quoted him as telling residents.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs put the number of dead at 179 and missing at 24, with almost 11,500 injured, 960 of them seriously.

Chen Yong, the vice director of the Ya'an city government earthquake response office, told reporters that the death toll was unlikely to rise dramatically.

"We understand the situation in most areas. Most of the casualties have been reported. In some remote mountain areas, it is possible that we don't fully understand the situation," he said.

But no schools had collapsed, unlike in 2008 when many poorly constructed schools crumpled causing huge public anger, prompting a nationwide campaign of re-building.

"Our schools are the safest and sturdiest buildings," Chen said. "The Chinese government has put a lot of money into building schools and hospitals. I can guarantee that no schools collapsed."

Xinhua news agency said 18,000 troops were in the area to help with rescue efforts.

Rescuers in Lushan had pulled 91 survivors out of rubble, Xinhua said. In villages closest to the epicentre, almost all low-rise buildings had collapsed, footage on state television showed.

The China Meteorological Association warned of the possibility of landslides in Lushan county, with more than 1,400 aftershocks registered.

Ya'an is a city of 1.5 million people and is considered one of the birthplaces of Chinese tea culture. It is also the home to one of China's main centres for protecting the giant panda.

Sichuan is one of the four major natural gas-producing provinces in China, and its output accounts for about 14 percent of the nation's total.

Sinopec Group, Asia's largest oil refiner, said its huge Puguang gas field was unaffected.

The US Geological Survey initially put the magnitude at 7, but later revised it down.

In 2010, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake killed 2,700 people in Yushu, a largely Tibetan region in northwest China.

Reuters

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
people
Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environment
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Life and Style
Fraud contributes 11p to a £2.00 box of half a dozen eggs
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital