Newly constructed bridge offers relief for those trapped in Yunnan quake zone

Helicopters and airplanes also helping out rescue efforts for survivors as 72-hour critical period looms

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 3:39pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 6:48pm

Relief supplies were finally able to reach Yunnan’s worst-hit quake zone late last night after the construction of a steel bridge leading into Longtoushan township. Survivors trapped in the zone could also be carried out to safety.

A previous bridge on the Longquan River had collapsed during the deadly magnitude-6.5 earthquake, hampering the transport of large amounts of aid and supplies. Rescuers could only carry goods into the quake zone by foot, Xinhua reported.

After 40 hours of construction, the new 30-metre bridge, with a load limit of 15 tonnes, was completed at 10pm on Tuesday. Trucks were seen driving into Longtoushan one after another, while the injured were carried out in vans, Xinhua said.

However, the road to the township might still experience congestion due to landslides after Sunday’s earthquake.

The official death toll on Wednesday climbed to 598, with another 2,401 wounded.

Helicopters and airplanes have also been deployed to help rescue efforts. The military in Chengdu, in neighbouring Sichuan province, sent helicopters carrying food, bottled water and tents to the disaster zones on Tuesday.

There have been previous reports of dwindling water and food for those still stranded in the rubble, with some having to subsist on one potato each or to drink muddy water.

Authorities had earlier on Wednesday called for volunteers to stay away from one of the disaster zones as traffic blocked supply routes and “substandard” relief goods flooded into the area, according to reports.

Close to 30 injured people were brought to hospitals by helicopter, the director of Zhaotong’s Disease Control Centre told Xinhua.

Civil aviation also allocated flights to help relief efforts. A critically injured victim was ferried by an Eastern Airline airplane from Zhaotong to Kunming – becoming the first civil carrier to do so.

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

The airline has transported more than 700 rescuers and 30 tonnes of relief goods after the earthquake.

Three days into the rescue, soldiers, police, firefighters and villagers were still digging in the rubble, searching for survivors before the 72-hour “golden rescue period” would end on Wednesday afternoon.

An 88-year-old woman in Babao village survived after being buried for 50 hours. She was pulled out from the debris by rescuers yesterday evening, and immediately sent to hospital, Xinhua reported.

The doctor said the woman did not sustain any injuries except for some bruises on the head, likely because she was couched in a free space within the debris.

WATCH: Ruins of Chinese school echo carnage of Sichuan quake

By 10.30 am on Wednesday, about 81,000 houses in Yunnan had collapsed in the quake. Among them were 134 schools with a total area of 8,000 square metres.

No deaths or injuries on campus were reported, as most students and teachers were on summer break, local media said.

Liu Lehua, the deputy chief of the education bureau in Zhaotong city, said all of the collapsed school buildings were built before the year 2000.

Some buildings managed to survive the quake. In a Hui Muslim village 10 kilometres to the east of the Ludian county centre, a 234-year-old temple stood upright among damaged houses, news website reported.

Residents said the temple had withstood 20 earthquakes greater than magnitude 5.