Essential supplies and medical support arrive following earthquake in Gansu, China

Published: 24 July 2013 10:28 CET

By Madeline Wilson, IFRC

The Red Cross Society of China is responding to the needs of thousands of people affected by the 6.6-magnitude earthquake that struck China’s Gansu province at 7.45am on Monday 22 July. The strong earthquake, which was followed by 371 aftershocks, caused over 90 deaths and has destroyed tens of thousands of houses, with 227,000 people evacuated from their homes.

“Support is needed for those thousands of families who had to flee their damaged and collapsed homes,” says Baktiar Mambetov, East Asia Regional Development Delegate, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

“Gansu is among the most under-developed regions of China. Many houses are made of mud brick and timber and these sorts of structures are unfortunately not strong enough to withstand an earthquake like the one that struck on Monday.”

The problem has been exacerbated by the heavy rain and flooding the region has experience in recent weeks. “The collapse of thousands of homes and destruction of farmland will be a severe blow to communities. People will likely need long-term support to regain their resilience,” said Mambetov.

The Red Cross Society of China immediately deployed disaster relief teams from the Gansu Provincial Branch and the national headquarters to assess the needs of affected families and begin relief efforts. Within 24 hours, Red Cross teams had distributed hundreds of tents, clothing and mats to families. Thousands of additional supplies including clothing, quilts, jackets, sleeping mats and hygiene items are being trucked to Gansu from pre-positioned stocks at disaster preparedness warehouses in nearby provinces.

More than 1,000 people suffered injuries as a result of the earthquake, and many are being treated by volunteer doctors from the Red Cross emergency response health team, who arrived in Gansu the day after the quake.

“Red Cross teams are continuing to make their way to the remote villages despite the challenge of access, with many roads damaged and an on-going risk of landslides,” says Mambetov. “With some villages at altitudes of over 2,700 metres, it gets pretty cold at night, so providing supplies like tents, blankets and jackets is critical.”

China is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries. According to the United Nations, approximately 70 per cent of China’s cities and half of its population are located in disaster-prone areas.

In April this year, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Lushan in China’s Sichuan province, killing 196 people and injuring over 13,400. The earthquake displaced 237,600 people and affected 2 million.