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Help on the way for survivors of killer earthquakes

(Shanghai Daily)

08:14, September 10, 2012

Workers load a train with containers full of disaster relief supplies at Shanghai's Beijiao Railway Station yesterday morning. Shanghai Red Cross is sending 60 tents, 2,000 quilts and 800 emergency packs to help people in earthquake-hit Yiliang County in Yunnan.(Shanghai Daily Photo)

SURVIVORS of a series of earthquakes that killed 81 people and injured more than 800 in a mountainous area of southwestern China were waiting for the arrival of more aid yesterday as jolting aftershocks kept fears high and hindered rescue efforts.

The latest victim was a 2-year-old child hit by a falling wall as an aftershock struck on Saturday night.

The first earthquakes struck on Friday in a region of small farms and mines near the border between Guizhou and Yunnan provinces. They toppled thousands of homes and sent boulders cascading across roads. Authorities evacuated more than 200,000 people.

Footage from China Central Television showed rescuers and sniffer dogs running past steep slopes because of the risk of fist-sized stones tumbling down. It also showed an ambulance stuck in stones and debris.

The quakes damaged 7,138 houses, 18 country roads and 11 bridges and forced the evacuation of 175,000 residents in Yunnan's Zhaotong City. Almost all of the 110,000 people who lived in Jiokui town in Zhaotong's Yiliang County, about three kilometers from the epicenter of one of the earthquakes, had been evacuated, but many had no shelter and were waiting for supplies, a town official said yesterday.

"They are living in the open air now," said the official surnamed Xiao. "We are in dire need of tents and quilts. We only received 2,200 tents. Many people have no quilts and are not living in tents."

More than 11,600 tents, 1,000 beds, 10,500 quilts, 54,300 packages of instant noodles and 78 tons of rice have been sent to quake-hit regions.

Zhao Ning, deputy director of the Yunnan provincial telecoms regulatory bureau, said phone services were almost back to normal yesterday following the repair of telecommunications facilities.

Power had been restored to about 90 percent of quake-affected residents as of noon yesterday, the China Southern Power Grid Corporation said. The earthquake left a total of 90,795 people without power, it said, adding that power had been restored to 80,688 people.

Basic daily necessities are available in the quake-hit areas in Yunnan, and instant noodles and bottled water are enough for seven days, the Ministry of Commerce said. It was working to secure supplies of bottled water, convenience food, tools for disaster relief and refined oil.

The first 5.6-magnitude quake struck just before 11:30am on Friday and was followed by an equally strong quake shortly after noon. The quakes were shallow and such quakes often cause more damage than deeper ones.

As of noon yesterday, there had been 279 aftershocks, said Zhang Junwei, a spokesman for Yunnan's seismological bureau.

Zhou Guangfu, deputy chief of Yiliang's education bureau, said three students were among those who died. More than 300 high and primary schools were damaged and all schools would be inspected before classes continued.

Over 7,600 rescuers, including the army and police are clearing roads, evacuating people and searching for the missing.

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