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Rescuers frantically work to reach survivors of earthquake in rural China

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 21st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

An earthquake has left dozens dead and at least a thousand more people injured in China's remote Lushan County, near the city of Ya'an in the southwestern province of Sichuan. Seismologists have put the quake at 6.56 on the Richter scale. A 7.9 temblor struck the same area in 2008.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Rescue workers are hampered by narrow roads and landslides, as well as government controls restricting access to avoid traffic jams. "The Lushan County Center is getting back to normal, but the need is still considerable in terms of shelter and materials," Kevin Xia of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says. "Supplies have had difficulty getting into the region because of the traffic jams. Most of our supplies are still on the way."

Relief workers from across China have their hands tied on account of the isolation of Lushan. "We're in a hurry. There are people that need help and we have supplies in the back (of the car)," one man said from the Shandong Province Earthquake Emergency Response Team.

Doctors and nurses are tending to people in the open or under tents in the grounds of the main hospital. Shattered glass, plaster and concrete are everywhere, having fallen during the quake. Water and electricity has been cut off to the area.

"I was scared. I've never seen an earthquake this big before," said one farmer, lying on a stretcher between tents, his family looking on.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang flew into the disaster zone by helicopter to comfort the injured and displaced, talking to rescuers and clambering over rubble.

"Don't be sad, we will rebuild after this disaster and your new homes will be even better than before," state media quoted him as telling residents.

The number of dead at 179 and missing at 24, with almost 11,500 injured, 960 of them seriously, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Government official Chen Yong has assured others that the death toll was unlikely to rise dramatically. "We understand the situation in most areas. Most of the casualties have been reported. In some remote mountain areas, it is possible that we don't fully understand the situation," he said.

One bright side to the disaster is that no schools in the area have collapsed, unlike the quake in 2008 when many schools crumpled causing huge public anger, prompting a nationwide campaign of re-building.

"Our schools are the safest and sturdiest buildings," Chen said. "The Chinese government has put a lot of money into building schools and hospitals. I can guarantee that no schools collapsed."

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