Hundreds of survivors of an earthquake that killed more than 200 people in southwest China pushed into traffic on a main road on Monday, waving protest signs, demanding help and shouting at police.
“We are in the open air here. No place to sleep, nothing to eat. No one is paying any attention to us,” said Peng Qiong, 45, a farmer from Chaoyang village on the outskirts of Lushan, near the epicentre.
China has poured resources into Sichuan since the magnitude 6.6 quake hit early on Saturday, including 1 billion yuan for disaster relief and compensation. About 18,000 troops are in the area.
The toll of the dead and missing from the country’s worst earthquake in three years climbed to 203 with more than 11,000 injured.
But while many have praised the government for its swift response, growing anger among some survivors underscores the government’s challenge in an area that also bore the brunt of a 7.9 earthquake in 2008 that killed nearly 70,000 people.
Mountainous terrain and poor infrastructure have made reaching victims difficult. The Xinhua news agency said aftershocks had triggered landslides that blocked a main road.
For more than two days, 40-year-old farmer Tian Kuanqian has watched as emergency vehicles have passed his wrecked village by.
“If they continue to ignore us like we are trivial, we will have no choice but to protest,” he said.
The back room of Tian’s house was torn from the building and is perched on a steep slope. Inside, a poster of former revolutionary leader Mao Zedong hung above a collapsed wall. Tian’s family including elderly parents sleep on the ground.
“It’s been three days and we haven’t seen noodles or water. What we need are tents,” Tian said.
In some cases, roads closed to non-emergency traffic have been clogged with all kinds of government vehicles.
On the way to Baoxing, a heavily damaged area about 40 kilometres from Lushan, idling ambulances, troop transporters, construction vehicles and buses for relief workers blocked both lanes of the road, making access possible only on foot or by weaving motorcycles.
A police officer in Chaoyang, trying to calm protesters on the road, said the authorities were doing all they could.
“Our leaders have visited and we’re working getting these people food and water,” said the officer, who declined to give his name.
In Zhongba village, part of Baoxing, residents said it took two days for help to arrive. When it did, supplies and tents were in short supply. Almost all buildings are damaged and many have collapsed.
Zhang Zhenghua, a 41-year-old farmer, said officials drove through the village on Monday and stopped briefly to apologise for the delay in help.
“The secretary mentioned subsidies to rebuild our homes. We hope they do what they say,” Zhang said.
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