China: Earthquakes - Information Bulletin n° 1

Situation Report
Originally published
The Disaster
At 22.09 and 23.37 on Friday 14 January 2000, two earthquakes measuring 6.0 and 6.5 in magnitude respectively hit the county of Yao'an in the Province of Yunnan located at 25.58 N and 101.15 E. Yunnan is situated in the South Western part of China. and borders Tibet, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

According to experts from the State Seismological Bureau, further aftershocks are believed to be expected in the coming days.

Initial reports from the Yunnan Branch of the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) indicate that the worst effected areas were in the neighbouring counties of Yao'an and Dayao (just to the north of Yao'an). These counties are located some 160 km W.N.W of the provincial capital of Kunming. In total, 7 counties in 2 prefectures that contain 74 townships are reported to have been affected.

First accounts from the area indicated that a large number of homes had been destroyed and damaged, with the injuries resulting from the earthquakes given at 400, with four fatalities. 29 of the injured are reported to be in a serious condition. The relatively low casualty figure has been attributed to the mountainous area being sparsely populated, on top of the fact that many residents evacuated their homes after the first quake occurred, thereby saving themselves further injury when the main quake struck and hour and a half later.

Latest reports (17 January) from the official Chinese News Agency, gives the total number of buildings damaged as 65,000 in Yao'an, with a further 55,000 damaged in Dayao county.

The Yunnan Branch of Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) report in their Initial Disaster Report that there are an estimated 120,000 homeless. Most of these are living in the open in makeshift shelters.

Night time temperatures in this mountainous area are currently around minus 5/6=B0 Celsius and around 18/19=B0 during daytime. This significant fluctuation in temperatures is expected to result in a high incidence of colds amongst the victims.

The region involved is traditionally a poor area which has historically received support from the central government. Yunnan Province has a high population (30% of the total living in China) of ethnic minorities. Being located in a mountainous area, the agricultural outputs are low, which means the population have had to rely on assistance from outside.

Red Cross/Red Crescent Action

The Red Cross Secretary General of Yunnan Province moved on Saturday 15 January to the area with an assessment team to quantify the full extent of the damage. Her initial findings were reported to the National Headquarters on 17 January.

The Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Center in Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan Province, have started the process of raising funds and donations of clothing, blankets and tents to be delivered to the effected area. The local branch has already been able to send out relief goods valued at RMB 210,000 (CHF 40,000) including food, tents and a small amount of medicines. The Hong Kong Branch has also responded by providing HKD 200,000 (CHF 41,000) that will allow the Yunnan Branch to purchase 20 MT of rice, 1,000 quilts, 1,000 coats and 30 tents. The Headquarters of the RCSC have authorised the
release of 100 tents from their Disaster Preparedness Center (DPC) in the neighbouring Province of Sichuan.

It is thought that access to the region will be less complicated than previous earthquakes, due to the reasonably good roads in the area linking it to Kunming in the east. It is not known yet if any of the roads have been destroyed or damaged, although some officials in the Civil Affairs Bureau warned that there might be rock falls and landslides in the region following the main earthquake.

The Provincial Red Cross is known for its resourcefulness and efficiency in dealing with such emergencies. Parts of Yunnan have been heavily damaged by severe earthquakes in the past. The most recent being in February 1996 and November 1998. The branch has combined with the local Health Department to send two medical teams to the earthquake zone to assist the affected population. The Red Cross report that the majority of the injured are being cared for in the local county hospitals.

Currently the local authorities have released 250 tents to help with temporary shelters. It is likely that supplies of food, and medical supplies will be sent to the area by the local Civil Affairs Bureau.

The Hong Kong based NGO's, the Salvation Army and Oxfam Hong Kong, are reported to have agreed to deliver HKD 300,000 (CHF 61,000) worth of supplies to the victims.


The assessment team identified a number of unfulfilled areas of need. They include food, winter coats, quilts and cooking kits. All of these items can be purchased in the region itself.

Given the positive response from the local authorities as well as the RCSC branches and other NGO's, for the supply of tents, the local provincial branch have not requested further assistance in this area.

RELIEF ITEM Unit cost RMB Unit Cost CHF No of units Covered to date by HKRC Balance needed Total Cost CHF
Winter coats
Short coats
Cooking sets
Food (Rice)

Whilst the RCSC are not at this time seeking an International Appeal to provide external assistance, the International Federation would encourage spontaneous donations to cover this amount.

The Federation delegation in China will continue to monitor closely the situation.

Hiroshi Higashiura
Asia and Pacific Department

Peter Rees-Gildea
Operations Funding and Reporting Department