Rescuers Battle Roadblocks, High Altitude to Reach Survivors in China Earthquake (Updated)

In the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Yushu, Qinghai yesterday, rescue workers are battling harsh conditions to save thousands trapped under debris. From the Christian Science Monitor:

Rescue workers are still arriving by air and road from across China, as are foreign and local journalists, at the invitation of the provincial government.

“Relief operations face massive difficulties, including severe weather, cold, and altitude sickness,” said Miao Chonggang, deputy director of disaster relief at the China Earthquake Administration. Sniffer dogs arriving from outside Qinghai were getting dizzy and short of breath at the 13,000-foot-high area.

Fan Yujuan, a survivor reached by phone, told the Monitor from the Yushu airport that she had seen at least 10 flights had arrived at the damaged facility, built just last year. Normally, the airport receives three flights a week.

“Many soldiers arrived, as well as medical and rescue teams. They also brought here relief for victims and transferred the injured victims away,” said Ms. Fan, who spent the night with her family in a tent in a horse-racing stadium.

See also
– “Cold May Worsen Toll in China Quake” from the New York Times
– “Students again victims in deadly China earthquake” from The Age
– “Tibetan communities hit hard by quake” by Radio Australia

Updated links:

– The death toll has now risen to 760, according to Xinhua.

Evan Osnos writes about the earthquake and the Chinese people’s expectations of openness:

With the rescue operation in Yushu underway, ten thousand people are believed to be injured. The death toll remains below that of the 2008 quake, owing, it seems, to the combination of a relatively less intense tremor and the fact that the area is more sparsely populated, with people living in smaller buildings. Chinese media managers are shaping the news carefully—domestic and foreign journalists are reportedly being kept away from the disaster site—but that hasn’t stopped some writers from pointing out that people will be watching closely to see what authorities learned in the two years since the quake that struck the Sichuan area of Wenchuan. “Wenchuan is a wound on people’s hearts but also a memorable lesson,” the Hangzhou Daily wrote today. “In that quake, people witnessed many miracles but also saw many shortcomings in the emergency system…. After the experience of the Wenchuan quake, whether or not China’s disaster-management system has improved will undoubtedly be displayed by the handling of the Qinghai.”

The Chinese public will be watching closely. (One report says that Chinese viewers complained to television regulators when an hour-long soap opera was on television yesterday instead of quake coverage.) Slowly, China has come to expect a certain amount of transparency in the treatment of public affairs, even if that transparency is not reliable enough yet to counter the power of rumors.

– AP video about rescue efforts:

– “China’s Hu Cuts Short Brazil Visit After Qinghai Earthquake” from Business Week.

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