China quake: Rain, landslides hamper rescue as death toll nears 400

DPA Beijing | Updated on November 25, 2017

Rain and landslides blocking key roads hampered efforts on Monday to evacuate some 57,000 people left homeless by an earthquake that killed at least 391 in south-western China.

Many among the estimated 1 million people affected by Sunday’s 6.5-magnitude quake in Yunnan province felt hundreds of aftershocks by Monday morning.

Rivers had been blocked by landslides in some areas, bringing the threat of floods, state media said.

“The blocked roads and the continuous downpour have made some disaster areas inaccessible for the relief vehicles,” said Liu Jianhua, the ruling Communist Party’s secretary in Zhaotong city, which administers the worst-hit county of Ludian.

The official Xinhua news agency quoted Liu as saying there was a “severe shortage” of professional rescue teams and equipment, and they were finding it difficult to clear blocked roads.

Three people were reported missing and about 1,800 were injured, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

Premier Li Keqiang and a team of senior officials arrived in Zhaotong on Monday to oversee relief work, the government said.

Speaking in Zhaotong, Li promised that rescue teams would conduct door-to-door searches over the next two days.

“We have to grab every opportunity of rescue to reduce the casualties,” he was quoted as saying.

Some 5,000 soldiers, police and fire-fighters had joined the rescue work, aided by about 2,000 civilian volunteers, reports said.

Two helicopters were airlifting some of the most severely injured from Longtoushan town, near the epicentre of the quake that struck at about 4:30 pm (0830 GMT) on Sunday.

At least 12,000 homes collapsed and 30,000 were damaged in the town and surrounding villages, with a total population of 430,000.

Power lines were severed and telecommunications services were cut off in many areas, state media said.

Photographs showed rows of old houses, mostly built of timber and adobe bricks, reduced to piles of rubble.

Other state media pictures showed rescuers carrying stretchers along dirt roads, with no vehicles in sight.

Some seriously injured people who were taken to makeshift hospitals and faced long waits to be transferred for emergency treatment.

“The critically injured patients keep coming, but we are unable to carry out operations for many of them,” Xinhua quoted a doctor as saying at a medical aid centre set up in tents.

“It is impossible to deal with severe injuries such as intracranial haemorrhage in such conditions,” the doctor said.

The rescue teams had managed to move some of the 57,200 people awaiting evacuation.

More than 1,500 people were evacuated from Huodehong township because they faced the risk of a flood from a lake formed by a landslide above their homes.

Thousands of tents, beds and blankets were sent to residents whose homes had collapsed, reports said.

Published on August 04, 2014

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