ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Swift action urged after Yunnan quake
Publication Date : 05-08-2014
"Rescue efforts must progress in a scientific manner to make full use of the "golden period" - the 72 hours since the quake took place "
China's top leaders have directed rescuers to race against time to save lives and do their best to resettle survivors following the earthquake in Yunnan province that killed nearly 400 people.
Premier Li Keqiang went to Yunnan early Monday, walked for 5 kilometres on muddy roads in Ludian county before arriving in Longquan, a village in Longtoushan township and the epicenter of the quake.
He stood in silence to pay tribute to the victims, comforted residents in the affected areas and personally guided rescue efforts.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday said saving lives is the top priority.
The magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck at 4.30pm on Sunday, killing at least 398 people and injuring more than 1,900 others.
Heavy overnight rain made the mountainous county more difficult to reach.
On the flight to the disaster area on Monday morning, Li said it was the most serious quake in the region in recent years.
The premier stressed that rescue efforts must progress in a scientific manner to make full use of the "golden period" - the 72 hours since the quake took place - in the search efforts.
"With each life saved, there will be one more happy family," Li told soldiers in the township.
He told provincial authorities to keep access to the epicenter clear for rescue teams.
Shen Taikuan, a villager in Longtoushan, said, "My son was only found at midnight, but thank goodness he was not seriously injured." Shen carried his son on his back while talking to Li.
Liu Qiwei, an official at the county hospital, said the hospital had treated at least 269 people, 10 of whom were seriously injured.
"Nearly 350 medical workers and 113 ambulances have been devoted to the rescue efforts and additional beds have been provided," Liu said.
He added that the delivery of supplies of relief materials and medicines to the disaster area must be stepped up to prevent the spread of diseases that might arise from the bodies in the debris. Liu also said that the safety of drinking water should be guaranteed.
Ma Wenxu, a Longtoushan resident, said the tiles on his house began to fall as the quake struck and he was afraid to stay at home.
"I slept in a car with my father. Ambulances' sirens were sounding throughout the night," Ma said.
The central government has allocated 600 million yuan ($97 million) for rescue efforts and more than 5,250 armed police officers and at least 1,700 reserve forces have been sent to the county.
By Monday, 472 people had received medical treatment and 6,566 had been given shelter, the Ministry of National Defence said.
Zhang Li, who coordinates the firefighters from Kunming, the provincial capital, said, "We called out more than 1,000 rescuers and 151 rescue vehicles across the province after the quake occurred."
The firefighters have been divided into three teams and sent to Ludian, Qiaojia and Huize counties, Zhang said.
Some rescue equipment, including cranes, could not be sent to the disaster area because of heavy traffic, he said, adding that the small number of firefighting teams need support from soldiers.
Some relief materials have been sent to seriously affected areas, including 20,000 tents, 30,000 quilts and 25,000 coats, the provincial civil affairs authority said.