Thu, Jul 24, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Quake-hit Chinese villages desperate for food supplies

AFP , BEIJING

One million people affected by a major earthquake in southwest China's Yunnan Province are in desperate need of food and supplies, but rescuers have been forced to travel by horseback due to badly damaged roads, officials said yesterday.

The deadly 6.2 Richter-scale tremor which happened late Monday killed at least 16 people and injured about 300 others according to the latest tally, a Yunnan seismological bureau official said.

"Based on the government in Dayao county, 16 people died, 46 people were seriously injured and 251 slightly injured," the official, surnamed Hu, said.

Dayao county, located some 180km from the Yunnan capital Kunming, is the worst-affected county, with the epicenter of the quake located in Tanhua town, where nine were confirmed dead and 38 wounded.

China's ministry of civil affairs said altogether one million people have been affected in 10 counties and 70 towns. It estimated the direct economic loss to be around 620 million yuan (US$74.7 million).

The quake caused 18,000 rooms to collapse and damaged 328,000 other rooms, including 69 schools, while also wrecking hospitals and reservoirs, the ministry said on its Web site.

Landslides caused by the quake, heavy rain, the mountainous terrain as well as hundreds of aftershocks have seriously impeded rescue efforts, officials said.

"The most seriously-affected areas are mountainous areas. The traffic situation is very poor. It's hard for vehicles to pass through," the ministry said.

Relief supplies could only make their way to the quake victims living in the most remote areas by men and horses, the official Xinhua news agency said.

"Food is in short supply. Farmers' houses collapsed so the stored grains were buried," a Dayao county official surnamed Zhang said.

"A lot of houses collapsed. The lack of tents is serious. We're using plastic to build makeshift tents. Medicine is also in short supply," Zhang said.

Measures to prevent epidemics have been taken and so far there have been no outbreaks, he said.

Disaster relief workers and soldiers carried the first batch of relief materials on their backs to the worst-hit areas in rugged mountains Tuesday afternoon, Xinhua said.

Another Dayao county official surnamed Shi said the rain had stopped yesterday and major roads have been repaired, with rescue supplies being brought to the county by vehicles.

"But for the villages that do not have roads, we still need to bring supplies on horseback," she said.

By 7am yesterday, 268 aftershocks had occurred, of which one was higher than 4 on the Richter scale and nine were higher than 3, while the others were under 3, said Hu.

Transportation and telecommunication infrastructure equipment had been seriously damaged, the ministry said.

The Yunnan provincial civil affairs office has so far sent 1,100 tents to affected areas and 100 tonnes of food, the ministry said.

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