Quake survivors still lack water and tents

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 April, 2010, 12:00am

Three days after the quake, many survivors in devastated Jiegu, the main town in Yushu county, Qinghai , were still in dire need of basic necessities, including water and tents.

The town's dusty roads were congested with vehicles, rescue workers and monks carrying spades. But food was given out only in a few places in the town, while relief tents provided by the government could only be seen in some locations.

The organisation of relief distribution also appeared weak. In the evening, monks drove a truck past a central square throwing out instant noodles and biscuits to hungry survivors, who scrambled for them. But an armed special policeman from Chengdu complained that this way of handing out food created a traffic jam and was dangerous.

Quake victims who had already spent three difficult nights on ice-cold pavements and in vegetable fields at an altitude of 3,700 metres braced for worse, with rain and snow forecast to fall.

Monk Sangji Danzeng's home is close to the Yushu Vocational Technical School in the centre of Jiegu, but rescuers and government relief workers had still not reached it. The monk lost five of his seven family members in the quake, and family and friends have had to dig out their bodies.

'We understand there are too many people that need to be helped, but we hope the government can send us a tent and food as soon as possible,' he said.

His only surviving relative is his mother, whose legs had to be amputated. The 48-year-old monk and those helping him clear the rubble were sleeping nearby in blankets they had retrieved from the rubble.

Other monks said they needed government help. Many were out helping search for survivors, digging out bodies and clearing rubble, especially in areas the government rescue workers had not yet reached. However, they said they were running out of resources themselves, especially as many temples have collapsed.

Most survivors are living in traditional Tibetan tents or makeshift ones that offer inadequate shelter.

Daiji Yongquo, 16, lost her grandfather and two uncles in the quake. The rest of her 20-member family are taking shelter in a tent made from a plastic sheet. The tent leaks, is hot during the day and useless against the cold at night.

'We have not received any relief supplies from the government yet, only instant noodles from the monks,' Daiji Yongquo said. 'What we need the most is water, though.'

She tried to get a tent the night before, but in vain. 'There were many people fighting for the tents. A girl like me had no chance.'

The junior high school pupil from student from the Yushu County No 2 National Middle School is desperate for a tent, even to the point of risking her life. When she heard that one needs a household registration document to get a tent, she sneaked into her classroom through a window to retrieve the document, even though the school is classified as dangerous.

She is not sure the risk was worth it. 'No one ever told us when the relief supplies would be handed out. It was only a rumour,' she said.

Officials from the Ministry of Civil Affairs said 41,540 tents, 159,240 cotton coats, 188,210 quilts, 100,000 ready meals, 185 tonnes of food, 400 mobile homes, 20,000 camp beds and 500 mobile toilets were on their way to quake zone. But poor weather and bad roads have delayed their delivery.

Basic snacks and water can be bought from a few shops in Yushu, but customers face limits on how much they can buy. Power and water are still off in most areas, and Qinghai officials say it will take 10 days for water supplies to resume and a month for electricity.

Looting has broken out in places, and fights among survivors desperate to get their hands on relief materials, but police say such incidents are isolated. Some 7,104 soldiers and 4,255 armed police had been sent to the quake zone, a People's Liberation Army spokesman in Qinghai said.

Additional reporting by Ivan Zhai in Xining