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Relief in focus as hope for missing fades


08:16, April 23, 2013

BAOXING, Sichuan, April 22 (Xinhua) -- Chinese rescuers are shifting their focus from rescue to relief but still hoped to find survivors on Monday night, nearly three days after a powerful earthquake hit southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Rescuers in some villages of the earthquake-vulnerable province have been racing against the ticking "critical first 72 hours" to hunt for the 23 missing as of 7 p.m.. The death toll from the 7.0-magnitude quake climbed to 192 on Monday night.

No major progress had been reported as of 9:30 p.m. by rescuers, who were combing through quake rubble in Lushan and Baoxing, both the worst-hit counties in Sichuan. But officials said the search is poised to continue.

"It will not end as long as there is a ray of hope," according to a Monday statement from the press center of the rescue and relief headquarters based at the epicenter of Lushan.

Sources with the center said the death toll is not expected to rise drastically like it did five years ago, when an even stronger earthquake hit Sichuan, leaving more than 87,000 people dead or missing.

The reasons they cited included less seismic intensity and much fewer collapsed houses.


Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who rushed to the epicenter several hours after the quake, has urged all-out rescue efforts during the "golden rescue period" in the first 72 hours after the disaster.

But over 2,300 aftershocks, with four measured above 5.0 magnitude, monitored in Lushan as of Monday afternoon, are making the rescue efforts more difficult and life-threatening.

One rescue volunteer had been killed by rolling rocks on a steep road linking Gaohe township and Longmen village, the official microblog account of the Sichuan Daily said Monday afternoon.

Rescue crews, however, were still reaching every household in the quake-affected regions, as was required by Premier Li, to search for the needy.

In Lushan's Gucheng village, over 100 rescuers were searching door to door and clearing debris.

Wang Bolin, leader of the crew told Xinhua that they were also helping the locals fetch food, clothing, domestic animals and household appliances from their ramshackle houses.

Severe shortages of medicine, food, drinking water, tents and quilts have been reported in regions including Lushan and Baoxing.

In Lushan's Shuangshi Township, a group of the armed police involved in the rescue were undergoing food and water rationing because of the relief supply shortages.

"We have not brushed our teeth for the past three days," Wu Xi'an, an officer with the group told Xinhua. "We have been eating instant noodles and pickles. Each of us is assigned with only one bottle of drinking water each day."

On Monday, Xinhua reporters in Tianquan County said an average of 30 relocated villagers were huddling in each tent.


As rescuers are still hoping for a miracle to pull more survivors out of the quake debris, more attention has been shifted to the relief supply shortages.

Traffic authorities in Sichuan said that the congestion on roads linking the quake-hit regions contributed greatly to the ongoing insufficiency.

"The traffic pressure in Lushan is now five to 10 times higher than the designed capacity of the county's roads," He Zongzhi, head of the Sichuan Provincial Traffic Police Force told Xinhua.

"Clogged roads are making it difficult for life-saving relief supplies to reach quake-hit townships and villages," he added.

Trucks loaded with heavy machinery for rescue and road clearance have made Lushan's narrow mountainous paths even harder to drive on.

Landslides triggered by continual aftershocks have also posed danger to traffic.

Roads linking four townships and villages in Baoxing did not resume operation till 10 a.m., after rescuers removed rocks and mud.

China's traffic authority has ordered the police to instruct people to avoid travelling to affected areas by car to leave a clear path for quake relief personnel and materials.

Relief supplies have been arriving at Lushan County seat since late Saturday after traffic pressure eased. Residents were seen queueing up for instant noodles and bottled drinking water in several locations.

Related Reading:

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Central government requires orderly quake rescue

The State Council General Office has urged relevant authorities and rescue forces to carry out the quake relief work in an orderly manner.

Ministry calls for quake donations transparency

China's Ministry of Civil Affairs on Monday asked charity groups to regulate donations intended for the area of southwest China rocked by Saturday's deadly earthquake, calling for transparency and social supervision.

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