Rescuers struggle to reach China quake zone as toll climbs

Song Zhengqiong, holding her daughter, cries in front of her damaged house after a strong 6.6 magnitude earthquake at Longmen village, Lushan county in Ya'an, Sichuan province April 21, 2013. REUTERS/
Song Zhengqiong, holding her daughter, cries in front of her damaged house after a strong 6.6 magnitude earthquake at Longmen village, Lushan county in Ya’an, Sichuan province April 21, 2013. REUTERS/

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 208 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 center 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.”

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 Ministry of Civil Affairs put the number of dead at 184 and missing at 24, with more than 11,800 injured.

Hundreds of armed police were blocked from using roads that were wrecked by landslides and marched in single file with shovels en route to Baoxing, one of the hardest hit areas. Xinhua news agency said 18,000 troops were in the area.

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

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 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.

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 who was 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.

“Treat and heal your wounds with peace of mind,” Xinhua quoted Li as telling patients at a hospital. “The government will take care of all the costs for those severely wounded.”

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

Already poor, many of the earthquake victims said the government was their only hope.

Cao Bangying, 36, whose family had set up mattresses and makeshift cots under a dump truck, said her house had been destroyed.

“Being without a home while having a child of this age is difficult,” Cao said, cradling her nine-month-old baby. “We can only rely on the government to help us.”

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

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 centers for protecting the giant panda.

(Writing by Ben Blanchard, Additional reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie)



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Terrorism could spread to US and Europe in…

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said terrorism would soon spread to Europe and the United States unless it is quickly dealt with in the Middle East,…

National

Ex-Bitcoin official to plead guilty to Silk Road…

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem has reached a plea deal to resolve U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to sell over $1 million of…

International

China's army changes tactics to prepare for war…

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as…

National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

Gossip

Joan Rivers on life support: Report

TMZ reports that comedian Joan Rivers has been placed on life support, "completely reliant on machines to stay alive." Rivers has been hospitalized since she…

Movies

What's new on Netflix in September

September has a supernatural theme for Netflix. UFO "documentaries" and the survivalist reality series "Doomsday Preppers" are among the new series coming to the online…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Wellbeing

VIDEO: Still not wearing sunscreen? You will after…

Sunscreen is possibly the most often repeated - and ignored - piece of skincare advice. But Thomas Leveritt took a different tactic. With a short…

Food

Twitter used to track down sources of food…

When Chicago health officials saw Twitter users complaining about local food poisoning episodes, they reached out on Twitter to those users and often ended up…

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…