Massive rescue under way after Yunnan quake

LUDIAN: The death toll from a 6.5-magnitude earthquake in southwest China’s Yunnan Province has risen to 398 with three missing, latest official statistics showed on Monday.
As of 2 p.m. on Monday, the strong quake had affected 1.08 million people in Zhaotong City and Qujing City, injured 1,801 and necessitated the emergency evacuation of about 230,000, according to the Yunnan Civil Affairs Department. Nearly 80,000 rooms of 25,500 households collapsed in the quake and 124,000 rooms of 39,200 households were seriously damaged, the department said.
The deaths include 319 in Ludian County, 66 in Qiaojia County, one in Zhaoyang District and 12 in Huize County. Three are missing in Qiaojia. Rescuers are racing against time to save lives after the quake struck at 4:30 p.m. Sunday (Beijing Time) with a depth of 12 km. The epicenter is in Longtoushan Township, Ludian County. Rescuers dug out with their hands a five-year-old boy buried in debris on Monday morning in a village in Longtoushan Township, one of the worst-hit areas. The child had injuries to his legs and received immediate medical treatment.
“We found and successfully rescued a woman and a man, both in their forties in Longtoushan at 9:20 a.m. and 10:25 a.m. Monday respectively,” said Li Jin, a paramilitary officer. Rescuers offered counseling and water to the seriously injured woman and man during the rescue process. As of 3 p.m. on Monday, firefighters in Yunnan had retrieved 75 trapped residents, including 32 survivors. “The changeful weather and steep valleys are causing great difficulties in the rescue operation,” said Zhang Yong, head of the Blue Sky Rescue Team, whose 45 members arrived at Longtoushan on Sunday night.
“There are many volunteer rescuers in the area and professional rescue forces are still needed,” added Zhang. Yunnan has sent 7,000 rescuers, including 5,000 soldiers, police officers and firefighters, to Zhaotong and Qujing. More than 4,000 servicemen and paramilitary reserve forces of the Chengdu Military Area Command have participated in the rescue work. Another 300 servicemen from the command are on their way to deliver relief materials in 110 vehicles. Over 600 of the command’s medical workers are treating the injured. The command has also dispatched six helicopters to the quake zone.
Quake-triggered landslides have blocked roads to the worst-hit areas, making it very difficult to transport injured residents and relief materials, several rescuers told Xinhua. Their work has been hampered by continuous downpours, which have disrupted traffic, lowered temperatures in the remote area, and made food and medicine shortages even more dangerous. Thundershowers and downpours are forecast in Ludian over the next few days, and temperatures could drop to 17 degrees centigrade at night. Late on Sunday night, President Xi Jinping ordered that authorities concerned give top priority to saving people’s lives, minimize casualties and guarantee a proper settlement for quake victims.
Premier Li Keqiang on Monday called for rescue of people to be given top priority as he gave instructions aboard a plane rushing to the quake zone. He also called for all-out efforts to treat the injured and for those suffering serious injuries to be transferred to better hospitals in nearby regions. As of Monday morning, 1,363 people have received medical treatment in the quake-hit areas, said the provincial health department. Four died despite doctors’ efforts. Eighteen medical rescue teams are on their way to the quake zone. Rescuers have evacuated residents threatened by a lake which was formed by the quake in Jiangbian Village, Zhixiang Township of Huize County. It had inundated 20 houses.
Xinhua journalists in Ludian County seat saw drenched survivors sitting along muddy roads waiting for food and medication. Some half-naked survivors were trembling in the rain. Medics in Ludian’s Longquan Village told Xinhua that they have severe shortages of medicine, and that local conditions are too poor to perform operations for the severely injured. “Critically injured patients keep coming, but we are unable to carry out operations for many of them,” one of the doctors working at a makeshift tent in the village said. “It is impossible to deal with severe injuries such as brain hemorrhages in such conditions.” 

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