Rescuers yesterday battled through dusty rubble to try to reach victims of two shallow earthquakes in China that killed at least 94 people, as traumatized survivors struggled with the devastation left behind.
State broadcaster CCTV showed images of soldiers digging through earth and sand to reach simple houses buried under landslides in Gansu Province.
Just one person was listed as missing and 1,001 as injured in Monday morning’s quake near the city of Dingxi in Gansu Province.
Seriously injured patients wrapped in blankets were put into helicopters heading to the provincial capital, Lanzhou, which has the nearest major hospital.
The twin earthquakes that struck on Monday morning had magnitudes of 5.9 and 5.6 according to the US Geological Survey, but were only 10km deep, so that much of the energy released was transmitted to the surface, where it wreaked havoc.
About 123,000 people were affected by the quake, with 31,600 moved to temporary shelters, the provincial earthquake administration said on its Web site. Almost 2,000 homes were completely destroyed, and about 22,500 damaged, the administration said.
In Meichuan, where officials said 61 people had been confirmed dead, Bo Yonghu, 25, stared solemnly at the remains of her family’s mud and stone home.
The back wall had been caved in by boulders crashing down the hillside behind.
“I thought it was going to be completely swallowed by the mountain,” she said. “I will not be entering the house again. Not ever.”
She, her parents, brother and sister had one bed to sleep on in their courtyard, under plastic sheeting nailed to four poles.
Neighbor Yang Suxiao, 18, the only family member at home when the earthquake struck, immediately ran outside and turned to see her bedroom reduced to rubble.
“I know I had a lucky escape,” she said. “I am glad we are all not injured, but we don’t know how we are going to repair the damage.”
Elsewhere in the township, the China Daily said one family had lost three children.
“How can I live on after two of my grandsons and one granddaughter passed away?” it quoted Zhu Xueqiao as saying.
“Four of my family’s five houses were brought down in last year’s mudslide, and now the quake has killed my grandchildren. I almost want to go with them,” she said.
Roads in the area were peppered with large boulders fallen from the surrounding mountains, and relief workers used shovels to clear a large landslide.
About 6,000 rescuers, among them armed police, firefighters, militiamen and local government staff had been sent to the region, Xinhua news agency reported.
CCTV showed makeshift tent relief centers being set up, with water, instant noodles and blankets being handed out.
Throughout the night, scores of rescue vehicles headed south from Lanzhou to the quake area. Many rescue workers had traveled from across the country and refused to rest during the night as they raced to find survivors.
Additional reporting by AP