China earthquake toll touches 398; thousands of troops, 8 planes deployed in Yunnan

The extent of the destruction can be gauged from what one of the residents of Ludian county told the Xinhua, likening the quake-hit streets to “battlefield after bombardment”.

By Supriya Jha | Last Updated: Aug 04, 2014, 15:59 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha

Beijing: Heavy rains and thunderstorms made the rescue work a Herculean task in the aftermath of an earthquake measuring 6.5 on Richter scale that rattled China`s Yunnan province killing hundreds, injuring more than a thousand and leaving thousands of others homeless and waiting to be relocated.

The emergency alert from the earthquake has been upgraded to the highest level, said the reports.

The death toll from the 6.5-magnitude quake shot up to 398, with 3 others missing and 1,801 injured, reported the CCTV news.

China deploys about 18,000 rescuers, 8 planes to quake zone in Yunnan http://t.co/tQ7tMEpjbD pic.twitter.com/YXO9HIvCBY

— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) August 4, 2014

President Xi Jinping has called for an “all-out effort” for saving people`s lives first.

Also, a total of eight planes including two military helicopters and two cargo planes have been sent to the quake zone.

Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived at Longtoushan, epicenter of deadly quake in China`s Yunnan Province, on foot after walking over 5 km to assess and instruct the relief work, a Xinhua tweet informed.

At the quake site, 7000 rescuers including 5,000 soldiers, police officers, and firefighters are busy helping the injured move out of the rubble even as they battle heavy downpour and landslides.

What further threatens the rescue work is the fact that numerous aftershocks have been hitting the area since the 6.5 quake. Also, moderate quakes of intensity as high as 5 to 6 on the Richter scale are expected to hit the region, reported the Xinhua citing local seismic experts. To add to the trouble, thundershowers and heavy rains might hit Ludian in next four day where alone, more than 300 people have lost their lives to the quake.

The rescue work is proving to be a herculean task due to rain-triggered mudslides, collapsing houses, and the rising number of the so-called "earthquake lakes" which are the areas filling with water in the aftermath of the quake.

The quake that hit at 4:30 pm on Sunday had its epicentre in Yunnan`s mountainous Ludian county which is home to more than 2,60000 people.

The quake has cut off power lines, levelled more than 12000 buildings including a school and sparked a severe shortage of food, clothing and medicine. The government has sent 2000 tents, 3,000 folding beds, 3,000 quilts and 3,000 coats to the disaster zone, Xinhua said.

The extent of the destruction can be gauged from what one of the residents of Ludian county told the Xinhua, likening the quake-hit streets to “battlefield after bombardment”.

According to official figures, some 60,000 people in Zhaotong city, where the quake-hit Ludian, Qiaojia counties, Zhaoyang District and the county-level city of Qujing belong, are waiting to be relocated, added the Xinhua report.

Expressing regret over the natural disaster, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said that he was "saddened by the loss of life" adding that the UN was ready to assist.

The US too, offered condolences and agreed to aid China in relief efforts.

"The United States offers sincere condolences to all those who lost loved ones in the Aug. 3 earthquake in southwestern China," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those that lost their lives, those injured or displaced, and all the people of China on this difficult day," she added.
China`s South-west is vulnerable to quakes and this 6.5 magnitude quake is thought to be the strongest tremor to have hit the region in last 14 years.
Earlier in 2008, a 7.9 quake in Sichuan killed a whopping 70,000 people, while a magnitude-7.1 quake in Zhaotong city in 1974 killed 1400.