Rescuers dig for survivors in Chinese earthquake as 2,500 soldiers join search

At least 381 have been killed in the disaster with 1,800 injured in Yunnan province

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Tuesday 05 August 2014 06:43
Rescuers carry an injuried child on a stretcher after a 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit the area in Ludian county
Rescuers carry an injuried child on a stretcher after a 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit the area in Ludian county

Rescuers are digging through the rubble of broken homes in the desperate search for survivors in south west China, after a major earthquake killed at least 381 people and injured over 1,800 in a single day.

Chinese rescue efforts have seen the government dispatch 2,500 soldiers with life-detection instruments and digging equipment to the province of Yunnan, where a 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit the region on Sunday.

The troops will join more than 300 police and fire fighters already in the area who have travelled from Zhaotong, and 400 emergency workers and sniffer dogs from across the Yunnan province trying to find survivors.

But aid efforts have been held back by unrelenting rain and persisting landslides that have left many roads unusable, the BBC reports, with rescuers forced to travel on foot as the government attempts to deliver 2,000 tents, 3,000 folding beds and as many quilts and coats to those in the disaster zone.

Temporary medical facilities have been set up in tents to treat the hundreds of survivors, with paramilitary policemen helping to carry injured children and the elderly to safety.

Images of the aftermath of the disaster in Ludian county show the extent of the devastation; streets are shown paved in broken and splintered pieces of buildings, while parked cars have been completely crushed on the roadside, and children sit covered in bandages in hospital corridors.

“All the houses had already collapsed when we arrived. Dead bodies were everywhere and there were a lot of injured people,” Chen Wangchang, head of Ludian County hospital in Yunnan’s Zhaotong City, told the BBC.

President Xi Jinping has called for “all-out efforts” to find survivors and China’s Premier Li Keqiang is making his way to the area. State broadcaster CCTV said 29,400 people had been evacuated from the region, but the death toll is expected to continue to rise.

Around 12,000 mostly brick homes are thought to have been reduced rubble in the quake, with around 30,000 damaged.

The quake is thought to be the worst to have hit the region in 14 years. Ma Liya, a local resident, told the Chinese state news agency Xinhua that the streets of Zhaotong were like a “battlefield after a bombardment”.

The Red Cross Society of China has sent aid for those made homeless by the disaster, while Red Cross branches in Hong Kong, Macau and neighbouring Sichuan province have also sent relief supplies.

The US Geological Survey measured the earthquake as 6.1 magnitude, while China’s earthquake monitoring agency said the magnitude was recorded at 6.5. The area is prone to earthquakes; in 2008 the Sichuan province suffered an earthquake that left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing and more than 16,000 people were killed in two more earthquakes in the 1970s.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon offered "his condolences to the Chinese government and the families of those killed".

The UN was ready to "lend its assistance to efforts to respond to humanitarian needs" and "to mobilise any international support needed", he said.

The White House also offered its condolences. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those that lost their lives," said National Security Council deputy spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

"The United States stands ready to assist."

Additional reporting from Associated Press

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