EARTHQUAKE CHAOS: Most of the timber houses in Jiegu Township, near the epicenter of the 7.1-magnitude earthquake in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, Qinghai Province, collapsed during the earthquake on April 14 (REN XIAOGANG)
China's disaster relief departments have initiated a first-class emergency response for disaster relief in the wake of a 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Qinghai Province at 7:49 a.m. on April 14.
The decision was made by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the National Committee for Disaster Reduction at noon of the same day. As of 9 a.m. April 15, the shallow earthquake with its epicenter in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu in the province has left at least 617 people dead, 9,110 others injured and around 100,000 homeless, according to local authorities.
Earthquake experts said that the Yushu earthquake is related to the 8.0-magnitude earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province, which took place on May 12, 2008 and killed nearly 70,000 people. Experts explained that both Yushu and Wenchuan are located on the edge of the Bayan Har block on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, where earthquakes have been active during the last two decades.
The first-class emergency response means relief funds allocated by the country's financial departments should be delivered to quake-hit areas no later than 24 hours after the quake. Relief materials should be sent to the affected areas by train or airline as quickly as possible.
On April 14, the Central Government announced that it would allocate 200 million yuan ($29.3 million) of central financing for disaster relief.
SLEEPLESS NIGHT: A rescue team arrive at Caojiabao Airport in Xining, capital of Qinghai Province, in the early morning of April 15, and immediately travel to the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu by road to engage in post-earthquake rescue efforts (LI ZIHENG)
During a phone call with Qiang Wei, Secretary of the Qinghai Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, on April 14, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao required that local government ensure that people in the affected areas have access to food, clothing and shelter. Wen also said that local government should not hesitate to report whatever difficulties they have experienced during the course of rescue work to the State Council, which will resolve them through the coordinated efforts of different departments.
Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu arrived at the quake-hit prefecture at around 7:20 p.m. on the same day to direct rescue work in the field. He began to visit residents of areas devastated by the earthquake and temporary settlements for evacuees immediately after his arrival.
Hui called for the joint efforts of military forces and local people to search and rescue trapped and injured people and minimize casualties.
He also called for further efforts in the allocation of homeless people and other measures to secure social stability.
Several professional rescue teams, including the China International Search and Rescue Team, were transported by air from across China to Yushu on April 14, and worked around the clock to save the lives of people buried under the debris of collapsed houses immediately after their arrival. China's People's Liberation Army Air Force has been deploying military freighters to transport rescuers and relief materials from other parts of the country to Yushu.
On the first night after the earthquake, at least 100,000 people in Yushu were forced to sleep in outdoor tents due to concerns about aftershocks, which occurred nearly 750 times during the first 24 hours following the 7.1-magnitude earthquake. The rescue command center said that badly-needed relief materials for the evacuees included tents, cotton clothes, quilts and medication, as temperatures fell below freezing point in Yushu at night.
LIFE RELAY: A policeman runs to a hospital holding a boy who was dug from the debris of collapsed buildings shortly after the earthquake in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, Qinghai, on April 14 (ZHANG HONGQUAN)
The Ministry of Civil Affairs said that it had sent 20,000 tents, 50,000 cotton coats and 50,000 quilts to the quake-hit region, which would start to arrive on April 15.
The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) had dispatched 1,974 firemen, 74 emergency vehicles and 37 sniffer dogs from across the country to the affected areas as of 7 a.m. April 15. The teams are equipped with a large amount of life-detection devices and rescue equipment.
The MPS has also urged the traffic authorities of Qinghai to guarantee the delivery of relief workers, materials and injured victims by preventing major traffic jams or car accidents.
By 6 p.m. April 14, the Ministry of Health (MOH) had dispatched 287 health personnel from Qinghai and the neighboring provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and the Tibet Autonomous Region. The MOH has organized 18 groups of 396 health experts and 60 groups of 1,320 health care workers to be ready for deployment on call.
The MOH also instructed the local health departments to prepare blood supply in case of emergencies, and told the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to undertake efforts for preventing the spread of disease.
On April 15, more than 400 seriously-injured people were transported to hospitals in large cities in Qinghai and neighboring provinces by air and road. A massive power outage caused by the earthquake was only alleviated after two power supply vehicles and five generators provided by the State Grid Corp. arrived at Yushu on April 15 morning. One power supply vehicle was used as a rescue command center while the other one was allocated to a local hospital.
The Chinese Red Cross Foundation has sent an urgent relief fund of 1 million yuan ($147,000) to its Qinghai branch for the quake-hit areas to purchase tents, cold-proof supplies and food, as well as provide support to victims. The foundation has announced the collection of donations from the public.
The governments of other provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions and companies have also donated money to Qinghai for relief work.