5 dead, 54 injured in Southwest China quake
Updated: 2014-11-24 09:28
Five people were killed and 54 others injured after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit a heavily Tibetan region of southwest China's Sichuan Province on Saturday.
The quake struck at 4:55 p.m. Saturday, with the epicenter measured at the Tagong Prairie, Kangding County, in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze, according to the China Earthquake Networks Center.
A total of 25,000 houses were damaged, affecting about 79,500 people and forcing 6,200 to relocate, according to the Garze prefecture government.
Reporters at the site said dozens of village huts and cattle sheds collapsed in the rural areas, but no building collapsed in the county seat, thanks to the massive shantytown renovation and infrastructure improvement it has undergone in recent years.
"The government has spent heavily on the development of the Tibetan region, so houses today are very firm," said Zhou Gong, a local Tibetan driver, who said his house survived the quake without damage.
A 6.5-magnitude quake jolted a mountainous part of Yunnan on August 3, killing over 600 people. Poorly constructed houses as a result of bitter poverty was considered a major factor behind the heavy casualties.
Among the injured, six were in critical condition and another five suffering severe injuries. The remaining 43 people sustained minor injuries, including 19 primary school pupils who got hurt in a stampede, said a publicity official at Kangding county, correcting the previous count of 42.
Within 9 hours, emergency services were able to successfully rescue all those injured after the earthquake. Eleven medical teams have reached the quake zone, and nearly 10,000 medical and epidemic prevention personnel have joined the rescue efforts.
In hard-hit Duola Village, relocated villagers are sheltered in tents and have been given quilts and instant noodles. Mobile communication has also been restored with the help of telecommunication vehicles.
Rescuers said all residents in the epicenter would spend this night in tents. Good news is that every household in the pastoral Tagong Town is equipped with a tent, but the freezing temperatures there, which could plunge to minus 10 degrees Celsius at night, could make lives difficult.
Song Li, vice head of Tagong Township, said the township is still in huge need of warm tents.
The 11th Panchen Lama, Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, a spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, on Sunday morning prayed for the quake zone. He wished people there could soon walk out of the shadow of the quake and lives quickly return to normal.
The strong earthquake was the latest to hit Sichuan, which neighbors Tibet Autonomous Region and has a history of earthquakes. A massive 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck Wenchuan on May 12, 2008, resulting in more than 80,000 people dead or missing. On April 20, 2013, a 7.0-magnitude quake hit Lushan, killing at least 196.
Kangding, in particular, lies on a geologically active belt. The county reported nine 7-magnitude-or-above quakes in 400 years.
Kungar Como, 20, and her grandmother were at home in Tagong when the earthquake struck.
"We felt a strong tremor, so I helped my grandmother outside. But she was hit by a collapsing wall," said Kungar. "People soon came to our aid and she was on her way to hospital about half an hour after the quake."
Powerful tremors were also felt in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, on Saturday, sending rattled residents out of the buildings.
The quake have caused blackouts, shut down two highways and affected railway traffic in the region for hours.
Two hours after the quake occurred, a 35-member rescue team from the police arrived at Tagong. Six military aircraft, 60 medical staff and nearly 1,000 soldiers and militia remain on standby.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs said at its website that it has allocated 1,000 tents, 2,000 quilts and 2,000 cotton-padded coats to the area. It has also dispersed 50 million yuan (8.16 million U.S. dollars) to disaster relief efforts.