Village bears brunt of Gansu quake as death toll climbs

Half of homes flattened and 25 killed as hillside caves in and buries victims in mud and rocks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 5:56am

A poverty-stricken village in remote Dingxi county of Gansu province is among the hardest hit by the 6.6-magnitude quake that jolted the region on Monday, killing more than two dozen people in the single village.

A total of 25 people were confirmed dead and more than half of the rickety houses made of sun-dried mud bricks in Yongxing village were reduced to rubble, CCTV reported yesterday.

The total death toll reached at least 94, with more than 1,000 injured, Xinhua reported, quoting figures provided by authorities in Gansu.

The report added that more than 51,000 houses collapsed and 240,000 others were severely damaged by the tremor, with more than 226,000 people forced out of their homes.

Yao Suocheng, a reporter with a local TV station who was among the first to reach Yongxing village, said 12 people from six households had been buried alive under tonnes of mud and rocks when nearly half of a hill caved in when the tremor struck.

Yao said the remains of 10 victims had been recovered, but relief work had been hampered because landslides had prevented excavator machines from reaching the disaster region.

But more than 1,000 soldiers from the People's Liberation Army's 21st unit in Lanzhou Military Region reached the village and its neighbouring areas within four hours of the quake striking at 7.45am on Monday, helping more than 70 stranded residents in Yongxing village to safety, CCTV said.

Hospitals set up aid stations in parking lots to accommodate large numbers of injured, while hundreds of paramilitary People's Armed Police fanned out to search for victims in the region of terraced farmland where the quake struck.

Arts student Li Jingui, 21, who was on the fourth floor of a school dormitory in Dingxi when the shaking started, said: "I saw the bulb hanging from the ceiling start swinging wildly around. I woke my two friends and we ran into the bathroom to hide."

The government's quake monitoring centre said the magnitude was 6.6, while the US Geological Survey said it was 5.9. Measurements can often vary, especially if different monitoring equipment is used. The quake was shallow, which can make them more destructive.

The Chinese Red Cross said it was shipping 200 tents, 1,000 sets of household items and 2,000 jackets to the area and sending teams from Lanzhou and Beijing to help with relief work.

Other supplies were being shipped in by the army and paramilitary police, which dispatched around 6,000 personnel and two helicopters to aid rescue efforts.

Heavy rain is expected in the area later in the week, raising the need for shelter and increasing the chance of further landslides.

Additional reporting by Associated Press