Guangdong rescuers head home
Ivan Zhai in Xining, Qinghai
A 150-member rescue team from Guangdong was returning home because altitude sickness had hampered their ability to help, China News Service reported yesterday.
Many Guangdong rescue workers showed altitude sickness symptoms ranging from dizziness and shivering to pulmonary edema, the report said.
At a hotel in Xining, the Qinghai capital, some Guangdong firefighters also said that after the first 72 hours, they weren't left with too much of a role to play in the rescue effort. That was because relief workers with life detectors had to give way to heavy mining equipment, which was used to clear rubble where bodies had not been found.
A firefighting squadron leader from Guangzhou's Huangpu district said relief workers from low-altitude areas, such as Guangdong and Shandong , reported that altitude sickness was the biggest challenge.
He said although Guangdong's team had the best life detectors among all relief teams in Yushu and many experienced workers from the Sichuan quake in 2008, the harsh natural environment had affected their efficiency.
'We had to have a rest every 30 minutes. Everyone had severe headaches, while some were vomiting and shivering,' he said.
One of his teammates, who had been involved in the rescue work two years ago in Sichuan, said another reason for the withdrawal was that the situation in Qinghai was far different from that in Sichuan.
The firefighter, who declined to give his name, said his team had stayed in Sichuan for 15 days but just three in Yushu.
'Many buildings in Sichuan were reinforced concrete structures, which gave survivors more living space,' he said.
'But in Yushu, most buildings were just made of adobe or bricks, and people would be buried once the buildings collapsed. There was no chance of escape.'
Although they all said they enjoyed the food in the Xining hotel, one firefighter, who did not want to be identified, said: 'I couldn't get to sleep last night. It seems I slept better in my sleeping bag in Yushu.'