China Red Cross rushes help to remote quake hit area

Published: 10 September 2012 14:11 CET

By Francis Markus in Beijing

Red Cross Society of China emergency teams are battling to bring help to survivors of a series of earthquakes that have struck a remote and underdeveloped southwestern region of China. The earthquakes - the strongest of which was magnitude 5.7 - left more than 80 people confirmed dead and approximately 800 injured. Over 200,000 people were evacuated from their homes.

Thousands of quilts and warm jackets, and hundreds of tents have been distributed to the worst-hit areas, in Yiliang County, Yunnan, which is more than six hours by road from the provincial capital, Kunming. Further supplies of quilts, tents, warm jackets and family kits consisting of household items will also be transported to neighbouring Guizhou province.

With its narrow, precipitous mountain roads, traversing the terrain in this region is challenging even in normal times. But rockfalls and landslides, following the earthquakes have added to the logistical difficulties.

The organization's specialist Blue Sky rescue team has been deployed to help efforts to find survivors who may be still trapped among the rubble. Among those they have already rescued from the ruins of collapsed homes on Sunday included a 78-year-old woman and a 58-year-old farm worker.

An Emergency Response Team (ERT) from the Yunnan Red Cross has also been deployed to provide latrines to survivors in one of the main temporary camps for the displaced. This is the second deployment of the ERT, trained and equipped using a module handed over to the Red Cross Society of China by the British Red Cross after its deployment in Sichuan following the 2008 earthquake. It was also deployed after an earthquake in Qinghai province in 2010.

A villager from the tiny hamlet of Luodehe told the Red Cross assessment team: “We have enough food and drinking water for now, but we are worried about how to rebuild our homes in the future.”

Yiliang county, the worst-hit area in Yunnan, is officially classified as one of China’s poorest areas. Many of the village homes in the area - which is partly populated by members of the Yi ethnic group - are built of timber and mud, making them more likely to collapse in an earthquake.

Given the absence of flat land in some places, finding safe locations for evacuation centres - and for rebuilding in the future - has been difficult.

“The impact of this earthquake shows that there are still some very vulnerable communities. Here the work of disaster preparedness and building more sustainable structures is still crucial and people need help now ,and will need support in the future to rebuild their livelihoods,” said Martin Faller, Head of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ East Asia regional office.

Alongside the relief goods provided by the Red Cross Society of China’s headquarters, provincial branches throughout the country have so far sent a total of at least 3.25 million CNY (512,000 USD, 484,000 CHF, 400,000 EUR), in cash and in-kind donations.