Landslides block aid from reaching Yunnan quake disaster as death toll surges to 589

Villager's effort to get supplies to elderly parents thwarted by landslides

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 11:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 3:12pm

Wang Qiyong was desperate to get food and water to his parents trapped inside Longtoushan township, the epicentre of the earthquake which hit Yunnan province on Sunday.

Wang survived the quake and headed off soon after in search of supplies. Now, with a motorcycle loaded with goods, he was trying to make his way back to the centre of the disaster. But authorities had stopped traffic to give priority to ambulances and medical supply trucks.

“The government’s supply trucks can’t get in there. I’m trying to save my parents myself, but I can’t get in either,” Wang said.

His village lies in a valley about 7km from Longtoushan, where the magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck close to the surface at 4.30pm. On Wednesday morning, the Civil Affairs Department of Yunnan Province said least 589 people were killed and 9 remained missing. More than 2,370 people were injured, 80,000 houses have been destroyed or damaged and 230,000 people are in need of shelter, state media reported.

The only link from Longtoushan to the outside world is through a single muddy road, six metres across, but access has been blocked by landslides. Two bulldozers were trying to remove a boulder of the size of a minibus but without success.

Wang, 32, bought more than a 1,000 yuan (HK$1,256) worth of water, food and tents. “My parents, both over 60 years old, were trapped inside [the quake zone] overnight, with nothing to eat or drink. They slept outside on the ground in the freezing cold,” Wang told the South China Morning Post. “What they show on television makes it look like things are alright, but the reality is very different.”

Watch: Relatives mourn after hundreds die in China quake

Xinhua reported the provincial government had allocated 23 million yuan for emergency relief. More than 31,000 tents, 295,000 blankets, 17,000 folding beds and 25,000 coats were being delivered to affected areas.

Wang said more than 10 households in their village – mostly extended family members – were buried in the quake. Wang’s niece, who was about to enter high school, was the only other survivor. She was pulled from the rubble after being buried for more than 10 hours.

“Thank God she survived. She’s the most educated person in our family,” Wang said.

Watch: China school ruins echo carnage of Sichuan quake

A villager in Longjing village, also in Longtoushan, said 70 per cent of houses had collapsed. Yi Shaozhen saw a huge stone strike her sister. “Her entire upper body was gone,” Yi, 35, told the Post. “The dead can be dug out slowly, but the ones alive are starving to death, as no rescue supplies have reached us,” she said amid sobs

Residents of Longquan village yesterday had their first hot meal since the disaster struck after subsisting on dry instant noodles.

Premier Li Keqiang visited victims being treated in the Ludian County Hospital, and encouraged them to remain strong and not lose hope, state radio reported.

Li said the government would pay their hospital fees until they fully recovered, China National Radio reported.

Meanwhile, authorities are trying to drain a lake, formed by falling rock and containing more than 3,000 cubic metres of water, in neighbouring Huize. It threatens to flood nearby villages, and at least 5,000 people downstream have been evacuated, state media reported. Authorities are planning to blast away a rock that is blocking a path to drain the water.