CHINA yesterday ramped up its response to an earthquake that killed 20 people and injured hundreds of others, sending supplies and personnel into the mountainous zone as rescuers searched for more victims.
In Jiuzhaigou, a popular tourist destination near the epicenter of Tuesday night’s 7.0-magnitude quake, dozens of relief and military trucks were rolling through the remote corner of Sichuan Province in the country’s southwest.
Locals took refuge in tents in several makeshift camps or out on streets in towns as more than 1,000 aftershocks jolted the region and landslides kept nerves on edge.
Jiuzhaigou is an area populated largely by ethnic Tibetans and Qiang people. Its scenic landscape is popular with mainly Chinese tourists who flock to its national park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
More than 50,000 tourists, including 126 foreigners, were evacuated following the earthquake, local authorities said, in addition to over 9,000 local residents.
Authorities were seeking to help more victims yesterday, with the Sichuan fire department saying 16 tourists were stranded in a picturesque spot called Panda Sea.
More than 500 medical staff have been sent to the disaster zone, provincial official Qumushiha told reporters.
Authorities have said thousands of response personnel were sent into the area, as rescue workers search for at least four people still missing.
Yang Yongzhi was a member of a search team forced by landslides to turn back on Wednesday night after trying to press into cut-off valleys.
“We’re responsible for finding if there are still people trapped over there. We’re the first to go check,” Yang said as the team prepared to make another attempt to reach the area.
The quake evoked memories of a devastating 8.0-magnitude earthquake in the region in 2008 that left 87,000 people dead or missing, but the impact of Tuesday’s disaster was comparatively light.
Authorities brought the death toll up to 20 yesterday afternoon with 431 injured, 34 of them seriously. A Frenchman and a Canadian woman were among those hurt.
The quake tore cracks in mountain highways and cars were smashed by falling boulders.
Some buildings in towns bore cracks, but few structures appeared to be badly damage.
One Jiuzhaigou hotel partially collapsed, however, and the body of a woman was pulled out of the rubble yesterday, provincial fire authorities said.
It was not known if others were still buried.
So far, 200 million yuan (US$30 million) in government relief funds has been allocated for quake relief, according to authorities.
The government of the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, where Jiuzhaigou is, issued an appeal for donations.
Authorities said 1,680 private homes across Jiuzhaigou’s 17 townships suffered varying degrees of damage.
The local government said it had repaired 129 telecommunication towers or other installations, restoring communications with much of the affected area.