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Death toll rises after China quake

21 April 2013, 16:26

Lushan - Rescuers struggled to reach a remote, rural corner of southwestern China on Sunday as the toll of the dead and missing from the country's worst earthquake in three years climbed to 203 with almost 1 000 serious injuries.

The 6.6 magnitude quake struck in Lushan county, near the city of Ya'an in the southwestern province of Sichuan, close to where a devastating 7.9 quake hit in May 2008, killing 70 000.

Most of the deaths were concentrated in Lushan, a short drive up the valley from Ya'an, but rescuers' progress was hampered by the narrowness of the road and landslides, as well as government controls restricting access to avoid traffic jams.

"The Lushan county centre is getting back to normal, but the need is still considerable in terms of shelter and materials," said Kevin Xia of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.


"Supplies have had difficulty getting into the region because of the traffic jams. Most of our supplies are still on the way," Xia said.

In Ya'an, relief workers from across China expressed frustration with gaining access to Lushan and the villages beyond, up in the mountains.

"We're in a hurry. There are people that need help and we have supplies in the back (of the car)," said one man from the Shandong Province Earthquake Emergency Response Team, who declined to give his name.

The foreign ministry thanked foreign governments for offers of help, but said the country was able to cope.

"At present, Chinese rescue and medical capabilities are guaranteed and relief resources are sufficient," it said.

In Lushan, doctors and nurses tended to people in the open or under tents in the grounds of the main hospital, surrounded by shattered glass, plaster and concrete. Water and electricity in the area were cut off by the quake, but the spring weather is warm.

"I was scared. I've never seen an earthquake this big before," said farmer Chen Tianxiong, 37, lying on a stretcher between tents, his family looking on.

Nearby, an elderly woman sat dazed mumbling to her son, while nurses wiped blood from another woman's foot as her husband cradled her head.


- Reuters


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