More than 1.5 million affected by China's deadly quake

April 22, 2013 at 6:22 AM
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BEIJING, April 22 (UPI) -- Water and other shortages faced up to 1.5 million people in China's Sichuan province Monday in the aftermath of an earthquake that killed at least 186 people.

Another 11,393 people were reported injured in the disaster in the southwestern China province.

Rescuers worked through hundreds of aftershocks that shook the region in the wake of the magnitude-7 Saturday quake, authorities said.

The same region was hit by an earthquake in 2008 that killed more than 69,000 people, with thousands missing, and caused billions of dollars in damage.

Besides dealing with aftershocks, landslides and shortages, thousands of rescuers, firefighters and medical personnel, many of whom were forced to go on foot to remote areas, sought to check the spread of diseases, especially the H7N9 bird flu virus that has continued to take its toll across the country, sources told the official Xinhua news agency.

The earthquake and the aftershocks have affected 69 counties in Sichuan, the Civil Affairs Ministry reported.

"A large number of buildings collapsed and were damaged in the quake-hit area. The authorities are still checking the details since the communication and transport are not fully available," a ministry statement said.

About 400 buildings were damaged and eight collapsed in Chongqing municipality and around 900 buildings were damaged in Yunnan.

Media reports said rescuers had covered Lushan County, the epicenter of the quake and other rescue teams managed to reach neighboring Baoxing County, a mountainous region.

Xinhua reported makeshift toilets were urgently needed in Lushan County because the usual toilets could no longer flush since running water hadn't been restored. The report said medical personnel were concerned about public health risks. The report said it wasn't advisable to use indoor toilets because homes have sustained quake damage.

Authorities said rescuers were racing against the "critical first 72 hours after the disaster" to comb the quake rubble and reach every household in the epicenter.

A road linking Baoxing County to Lushan and Xiaojin was reopened and is known among the rescuers as the "relief lifeline."

Xinhua reported that quake survivors in Lushan County are in urgent need of water, food and tents. The report said children held up cardboard signs saying, "500 people, no food, no water, no tents."

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged the railways and other transportation departments to make every effort to deliver relief supplies to the quake-hit area.

Those areas were also forecast to receive rainfall in the next three days, meteorologists said, and residents were told to be alert to secondary disasters such as falling rocks and landslides triggered by the aftershocks.

China Daily reported lack of medication forced a 40-year-old Baoxing County resident to undergo surgery on his injured legs without an anesthetic.

"Baoxing was completely cut off from the outside world at the time. There was no medication and no supplies, nothing," said a medical worker, who spent 2 hours hiking to the isolated area, 4 hours after the quake, the report said.

The report said some rescuers were forced to crawl over a section of the road hit by landslides and loose rocks crashing down the cliffs.

The BBC reported China has received offers of help from countries including Japan, with which it is embroiled in a territorial dispute over islands in the East China Sea.

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