Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rescuers race to save trapped quake victims

By China correspondent Stephen McDonell and wires

China has set aside $32 million to fund rescue efforts after a powerful earthquake hit the Tibetan Plateau, killing at least 600 people and injuring about 10,000.

An earthquake measuring 6.9 hit remote parts of Western China's Qinghai Province, levelling houses made of wood and earth. The quake also took out telecommunications, roads and bridges.

At high altitude, rescuers have been using their bare hands to try to clear the debris and reach those trapped under rubble.

"There are 10 people in my family and only four of us escaped," Samdrup Gyatso, 17, said after his two-storey home crumbled.

"One of my relatives died. All the others are buried under the rubble."

Police have managed to pull more than 900 people alive from ruined buildings but many more are believed to be trapped and soldiers are being rushed in to help.

Weather forecasters are predicting wind and sleet in coming days, while seismologists are warning of further aftershocks.

Zhuohuaxia, an official in Jiegu, reported a lack of tents, medicines and medical equipment for the survivors.

"The injured are everywhere in the street, a lot of people are bleeding from head wounds," Zhuohuaxia said, adding that more than 85 per cent of houses collapsed in Jiegu.

"Houses built with mud and brick have collapsed and many people have been buried or trapped underneath.

"We are now helping people carry out rescues on their own as we lack heavy lifting equipment."

The epicentre was at Yushu, an ethnic Tibetan area, 800 kilometres from the provincial capital.

Diana Dodd, who works with the charity ROKPA, has been in touch with people in the town of Yushu, which is close to the epicentre.

"We've been hearing of hundreds dead - confusion, panic - thousands injured and a complete devastation of a whole town," she said.

"It will be very cold, particularly at night. People will have no shelter."

Xinhua news agency reported the early-morning quake had caused some schools and part of a government office building to cave in.

President Hu Jintao called for all-out efforts to save as many people as possible.

Last night, the local airport was operating with emergency power and receiving flights containing rescue workers with sniffer dogs.

About 5,000 specialist quake rescuers have been dispatched from neighbouring provinces plus tents, clothing and blankets.


The Dalai Lama has offered his condolences to the quake victims.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said he would organise a special prayer service in his home in exile, Dharamsala, in northern India and would explore ways in which he could help.

"We pray for those who have lost their lives in this tragedy and their families and others who have been affected," the Dalai Lama said in a statement.

"It is my hope that all possible assistance and relief work will reach these people. I am also exploring how I, too, can contribute to these efforts."

The United States says it is "ready to assist" in the rescue effort while the United Nations said chief Ban Ki-moon "recognises the efforts being undertaken by the government of China to assess the situation and to assist those affected by the earthquake".

French president Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter to Mr Hu offering condolences and voicing confidence "in China's ability to overcome this latest ordeal".


No comments: