Rescuers Battle Roadblocks, High Altitude to Reach Survivors in China Earthquake

Article excerpt

The death toll in China's earthquake topped 600 on Thursday, as rescue teams pulled 1,000 survivors from the rubble but struggled with the high altitude and lack of heavy equipment.

Rescue teams scrambled to reach survivors in the remote earthquake zone of China's Qinghai Province on Thursday, pulling 1,000 people out from the rubble while coping with a lack of heavy equipment, damaged and blocked roads, and high altitude.

One day after a 6.9-magnitude quake struck poor and mountainous Yushu County, the death toll had risen to 617 people. Some 9,000 people were injured, 300 missing, and 100,000 homeless, Zou Ming, the Ministry of Civil Affairs director of disaster relief, told reporters in Beijing.

Rescue workers are still arriving by air and road from across China, as are foreign and local journalists, at the invitation of the provincial government.

IN PICTURES: Earthquake in China's Qinghai province

"Relief operations face massive difficulties, including severe weather, cold, and altitude sickness," said Miao Chonggang, deputy director of disaster relief at the China Earthquake Administration. Sniffer dogs arriving from outside Qinghai were getting dizzy and short of breath at the 13,000-foot-high area.

Fan Yujuan, a survivor reached by phone, told the Monitor from the Yushu airport that she had seen at least 10 flights had arrived at the damaged facility, built just last year. Normally, the airport receives three flights a week.

"Many soldiers arrived, as well as medical and rescue teams. They also brought here relief for victims and transferred the injured victims away," said Ms. Fan, who spent the night with her family in a tent in a horse-racing stadium.

Fan said water and instant noodles were in shortage, and that some victims were going back to the debris of their homes to dig out supplies.

"Luckily today there are not many aftershocks," said Fan, who was on the third floor of her office when the quake struck at 7:49 am Wednesday morning.

Government mobilizes

In the flattened town of Jiegu, 30 miles from the epicenter, where 15,000 mostly mud and wood homes were destroyed, rescue workers dug for survivors with hands and shovels, Mr. Zou said. In addition to finding 1,000 people, Chinese soldiers also found more than 100 bodies in the rubble.

More than 1,000 people from the Public Security Bureau and a team from the People's Armed Police have been dispatched to Yushu to maintain order, Zou said.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited the disaster site on Thursday, China Central Television reported, though it did not show footage of his arrival. …

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