Thursday 18 December 2014

Thousands of troops join rescue push after China quake kills 410 people

Published 05/08/2014 | 12:58

Chinese paramilitary policemen and rescuers carry a victim injured in Sunday's earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. Rescuers raced Tuesday to evacuate villages near rising lakes formed by landslides, complicating relief efforts following the strong earthquake in southern China that killed over 300 people and has left thousands homeless. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Chinese paramilitary policemen and rescuers carry a victim injured in Sunday's earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Villagers sit in front of their destroyed house following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A man wraps the victims' bodies on the wooden stretchers near the earthquake zone in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Villagers carry relief materials on their back as they walk along damaged houses, after a deadly earthquake hit Longtoushan town on Sunday, Ludian county, Zhaotong, Yunnan province, August 4, 2014. Picture taken August 4, 2014. REUTERS/China Daily
A woman carries her son on her back as she prays for those affected by Sunday's earthquake which hit Longtoushan town, at a temple in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, August 5, 2014. The death toll from the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that hit the town in the province's mountainous Ludian county of Zhaotong, Yunnan province, on Sunday climbed to 398 people, state media reported on Monday. REUTERS/Alex Lee
Villagers watch a worker useing a bulldozer to transport paramilitary policemen and rescue workers across a river after a bridge was damaged by a strong earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A donkey stands tied to a pole near houses damaged by Sunday's earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. Rescuers raced Tuesday to evacuate villages near rising lakes formed by landslides, complicating relief efforts following the strong earthquake in southern China that killed over 300 people and has left thousands homeless. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A villager stands at the rubbles following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Rescuers wrap a victim's body near a destroyed house following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A rescuer walks past paramilitary policemen searching for survivors at a destroyed house following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A man walks past a destroyed house following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Villagers watch rescuers searching for survivor following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. Rescuers raced Tuesday to evacuate villages near rising lakes formed by landslides, complicating relief efforts following a strong earthquake in southern China that killed more than 300 people and has left thousands homeless. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Rescuers prepare to carry away a young victim on a stretcher near a destroyed house following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Rescuers try to retrieve a trapped victim's body from a collapsed house following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A villager carries her belongings and walks through the rubbles from destroyed houses following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Rescuers and a villager walk past rubbles from destroyed houses following a massive earthquake in the town of Longtoushan in Ludian County in southwest China's Yunnan Province Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A severely injured person is carried through a window onto a train heading to Kunming to receive better medical treatment at a railway station after earthquake struck on Sunday, in Zhaotong, Yunnan province, August 5, 2014. A deadly earthquake hit Longtoushan town, Ludian county of Zhaotong on Sunday which has killed at least 410 people and injured 2373, according to the state media. REUTERS/China Daily
People suffering from severe injuries are transported onto a train heading for Kunming to receive better medical treatment after Sunday's earthquake at a railway station in Zhaotong, Yunnan province, August 5, 2014. A deadly earthquake hit Longtoushan town, Ludian county of Zhaotong on Sunday which has killed at least 410 people and injured 2373, according to the state media. REUTERS/China Daily
Rescue workers are transported into an earthquake zone on a front loader in Zhaotong, Yunnan province, August 5, 2014. A deadly earthquake hit Longtoushan town, Ludian county of Zhaotong on Sunday which has killed at least 410 people and injured 2,373, according to the state media. REUTERS/China Daily
A woman washes the feet for a crying child under a tent at a quake zone at Longtoushan, Dudian county, in Zhaotong, Yunnan province, August 5, 2014. A deadly earthquake hit Longtoushan town, Ludian county of Zhaotong on Sunday which has killed at least 410 people and injured 2,373, according to the state media. REUTERS/China Daily
Rescue workers carrying medicines step off a front loader upon arriving at a quake zone at Longtoushan, Dudian county, in Zhaotong, Yunnan province, August 5, 2014. A deadly earthquake hit Longtoushan town, Ludian county of Zhaotong on Sunday which has killed at least 410 people and injured 2,373, according to the state media. REUTERS/China Daily

About 10,000 troops used pickaxes and backhoes to clear roads and dig residents from collapsed homes today after an earthquake in south-west China which killed 410 people.

Volunteer Jackson Zeng joined about two dozen classmates who headed to Yunnan province's Ludian county, where Sunday's 6.1-magnitude earthquake collapsed thousands of homes in an impoverished region of mountainous farmland.

"I grew up around here and these are my people. I'm not sure what I can do, but I will help any way that I can," said Zeng, a third-year student at Kunming University of Science and Technology.

Zeng's black T-shirt contrasted with the scores of green fatigue-clad troops along the main road into the quake zone.

Paramilitary personnel with a backhoe and other heavy equipment pushed earth from a stretch of road affected by a landslide while Zeng and other students used their hands to push rocks over a cliff.

Many hundreds of volunteers have converged on the nearby city of Zhaotong en-route to the quake-hit areas - a typical phenomenon during disasters in China.

Many came empty-handed but some were formed into company-sponsored units complete with uniforms and their own relief aid to distribute.

The government also has sent thousands of tents, quilts, sleeping bags and cotton coats to the region, as well as folding beds, chairs and tables, and mobile toilets.

The quake struck an area of steep hills and narrow roads not suited to all the traffic of the massive relief effort and heavy rain today added to the complications. Much of the damage was due to landslides.

Ambulances, bulldozers and trucks filled with water and noodles clogged the main road heading to the hardest-hit town of Longtou, about 230 miles north-east of Kunming. Helicopters hoisted supplies to the most remote areas.

The Yunnan Civil Affairs Bureau said that 410 people had been killed and 2,373 injured, with 12 people still missing about 48 hours after the quake.

Rescuers pulled dozens of trapped people from the debris in the first couple of days.

A five-year-old boy was dug from a collapsed home on Monday and state media today released a photo taken in a hospital of two pregnant women who comforted each other while trapped in the rubble before they, too, were rescued.

Many of the homes in Ludian, which has a population of about 429,000, were rudimentary mud-brick structures that collapsed easily in the quake.

Cai Jiangping, a 46-year-old corn farmer, pointed to where he and seven members of his extended family had lived on the other side of a river valley just south of Longtou.

"The house is a complete write-off. But we'll throw some plastic over it and then talk to the insurance company," he said.

Cai was sheltering with a group of friends, his motorcycle his only surviving possession.

Further from the worst-hit areas, landslides created barrier lakes where water levels were rising to pose a new threat to about 800 residents and seven power stations downstream, where sudden flooding could prompt power cuts, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The region is prone to earthquakes. In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people. In September 2012, a series of quakes killed 81 people.

In May 2008, a powerful quake in Sichuan province left nearly 90,000 people dead.

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