Quake Shocks Sichuan
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Print Edition> Nation
UPDATED: August 23, 2010 NO. 34 AUGUST 26, 2010
Continual Disasters
As rescues carry on in Zhouqu, more disasters triggered by rain are assaulting other areas


MOURNING VICTIMS: People stand in silent tribute to mourn mudslide victims at Dongjie Village in Zhouqu County of northwest China's Gansu Province on August 15. China observed a day of national mourning for the victims (NIE JIANJIANG) 

Amid sirens and wailing horns, people across China stood in a silent tribute to victims of a massive mudslide in Zhouqu County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in northwest China's Gansu Province on August 15.

On August 8, a deadly mudslide struck the county, killing 1,270 while 474 people remained missing as of August 17, according to the local disaster relief headquarters.

At 10 a.m. on August 15, more than 5,000 rescuers and villagers stood still on the debris of the mudslide at Dongjie Village in Zhouqu, bowing their heads in remembrance of those killed in the disaster.

In Beijing, the giant Chinese national flag at Tiananmen Square was lowered to half-mast.

National flags across the country and at overseas embassies and consulates were also lowered to half-mast.

Although the Shanghai Expo site was open on August 15, it also mourned. Its regular music broadcast was halted, and more than 100 performances and cultural activities were canceled, according to the Bureau of the Shanghai World Expo Coordination.

Under requirement by the Ministry of Culture, public recreational activities, such as movies, karaoke and online entertainment including games and music were suspended that day.

It was the third time in two years that China has observed a period of national mourning for a disaster. The government ordered a three-day observance after the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province that killed nearly 90,000 people and one day following April's quake in Yushu in Qinghai Province that killed 2,700 people.

Rescue efforts continue

Before and after the three-minute mourning, rescuers continued to clear the debris, searching for bodies and spraying disinfectant in Zhouqu.

About 7,000 soldiers and armed policemen are still working around the clock to clear the rubble and restore transportation links.

The military men and armed police played a crucial role in rescuing people in Zhouqu, said Major General Wang Wenjie of the Lanzhou Military Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

"People can count on us whenever disaster strikes. The army will always be a strong and reliable force in rescue missions," Wang said at a press conference in Beijing on August 13.

On August 12, the Ministry of Health warned of disease-prevention challenges in Zhouqu, as dead bodies and dead animals entombed in the mud may easily decay in the hot weather.

In order to prevent disease, soldiers also sterilized an area of 128,000 square meters, while giving medical treatment to 12,000 local residents, Wang said.

Local health authorities have received no reports of any infectious disease, according to local government sources.

Although wells had been dug to ensure water supply, the Ministry of Health said sterilization work was difficult as the water may be contaminated during transportation and storage.

While more equipment is en route to Zhouqu, Wang said more epidemic prevention workers are ready to go if needed.

Besides personnel, 17 helicopters and airplanes and 35 rubber rafts have been sent to the disaster-hit area.

Meanwhile, China's Ministry of Commerce announced on August 16 that the supply of daily necessities for those affected by the mudslides in Gansu and Sichuan provinces is a top priority.

The ministry urged local authorities to help establish supply centers for goods and catering services and open more retail stores so that daily needs could be met.

It also urged local bureaus to strengthen market monitoring of price changes for goods such as rice, edible oil, meat, eggs and vegetables.

As of August 15, a total of 106 million yuan ($15.52 million), as well as relief materials worth more than 20.3 million yuan ($2.97 million), had been donated to Zhouqu, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The relief materials include 1,030 tents and 1,000 sleeping bags, as well as thousands of boxes of bottled water and instant noodles.

Authorities in Gansu have issued regulations to govern the purchase, acceptance and delivery of relief materials to ensure they are sent to the affected people in a safe and speedy way.

Rescue workers have been racing to restore water, communications and power supplies in the area.

Local government sources said on August 17 that emergency water supplies were currently keeping pace with demand.

Mobile phone networks have resumed operation, though landline services remain cut off in most of the county.

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