Yunnan quake survivors in desperate wait for food and medical supplies

As Yunnan death toll climbs to 398, damage to roads hinders relief efforts in worst-hit areas

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 12:56pm

Survivors of Sunday's earthquake in Yunnan province are now facing another grim battle - gaining access to food and desperately needed medical help.

The 6.5-magnitude quake - which by yesterday afternoon had claimed 398 lives - damaged many roads, hindering rescue efforts and delivery of supplies to some of the worst-hit areas.

Watch: Rescuers race to find survivors after 400 die in China quake

By 2pm, at least three people remained missing and 1,801 were injured in the earthquake at Zhaotong city, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

More than 42,000 homes in the epicentre around Longtoushan township in Ludian county were destroyed, and thousands of police, soldiers and firefighters have been dispatched to search for survivors.

Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Ludian in the afternoon, urging immediate help for those missing and trapped by debris.

Xinhua reported that Li braved the heat on a 5km walk to reach the epicentre.

In Hong Kong, the local branches of the Red Cross and Unicef sent staff and relief supplies to the quake zone yesterday.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the Disaster Relief Fund Advisory Committee would process funding proposals from local relief organisations to enable the provision of early aid to those in need in the quake zone.

Transportation is completely cut off ... each villager had only one potato

Aerial video footage on state broadcaster CCTV showed many buildings - mostly made of wood and bricks - were flattened in the mountainous area.

Torrential downpours are forecast for the next three days that could cause landslides and further hinder relief efforts. Geological experts also warned of the possibilities of aftershocks stronger than a 6 magnitude in the area, Xinhua reported.

As of 4pm yesterday, the China Earthquake Administration said there had been 467 aftershocks in the region, with four of them registering magnitudes of between 4 and 4.9.

At least another 800 people were under threat as the water level in a barrier lake - formed as landslides blocked part of a hydropower plant in Ludian county - continued to rise at a rate of one metre per hour. Officials said they were formulating a plan to drain the water to prevent an overflow.

Roads remained cut off, hindering transportation of rescue workers and food supplies. Over 1,000 of the injured were stranded in three counties yesterday morning, the provincial bureau of civil affairs said.

Watch: Relatives mourn after hundreds die in China quake

The Beijing News reported that more than 200 residents of Guangming village had to make do with only a bag of potatoes dug out from the debris.

"Transportation is completely cut off … with no food supplies, each villager had only one potato. And we will completely run out of food tomorrow," village chief Li Shixian said.

Huang Min, a volunteer teacher in Longjing village, said villagers had to stay outside, despite heavy rains, as their homes were in danger of collapse.

"We're in desperate need of food, water, tents and electricity," Huang told the newspaper.

The Ministry of Finance said it had allocated 600 million yuan (HK$750 million) yesterday for rescue work.

Drones join earthquake relief effort

Authorities in Yunnan have used drones to help with rescue efforts after the earthquake which hit the area on Sunday.

The People's Armed Police and the provincial government had deployed the unmanned aerial vehicles, the Ministry of Defence and state media said.

It was the first time the paramilitary police had used the technology to help in the aftermath of an earthquake.

The reports said that by noon yesterday the drones had taken images of an area of 30 sq km to help relief efforts.

Meanwhile, more survivors have been telling of the moments the 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck.

One couple in Longtoushan township saved their four children by digging them out of the rubble of their homes with hoes, according to local media reports.

Luo Faming and his wife were harvesting Sichuan peppers in their garden when they felt the first tremors. In seconds their house had collapsed with their children inside.

"The shaking was intense at that moment. My house is only made out of woods and bricks," Luo said. "We have lived in our house for almost 20 years and it just fell down in an instant."

Luo and his wife grabbed their tools and started to dig in the rubble. Neighbours joined in the rescue effort. One of their children was badly hurt and is in a coma while the other three suffered bone factures.

Another man living in the same township dug two people out of a collapsed house with his bare hands, Xinhua reported.

Firefighters rescued 32 people who had been trapped in the area, but also retrieved the bodies of 43 residents, the report said.

Drenched survivors, including some half-naked, were sitting along muddy roads in the rain waiting for food and medication, Xinhua reported.

About 12,000 homes collapsed when the quake struck on Sunday afternoon in impoverished Ludian county, around 370km northeast of Yunnan province's capital, Kunming , Xinhua reported.

It said about 230,000 people had been evacuated from the area.

Many of the homes that collapsed in Ludian, which has a population of about 429,000, were old and made of brick, Xinhua said, adding that electricity and telecommunications were cut off in the county.

Nectar Gan and  Associated Press