China: Relief efforts continue in Xinjiang

News and Press Release
Originally published
Rescue workers with search dogs combed the rubble of flattened villages in near freezing weather in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, hoping to find survivors of an earthquake that killed at least 266 people by Tuesday evening.
Monday's devastating quake, which rocked Bachu and Jiashi counties of Xinjiang at 10:03 am with a magnitude of 6.8 on the Richter scale, also left more than 2,050 people seriously injured.

It flattened more than 8,800 houses and 900 classrooms, according to the latest report from the region.

More than 600 residents who suffered serious injuries in the quake are undergoing treatment in local hospitals and in a stable condition, according to local hospital sources.

Most of the injured are senior residents.

Xinhua quoted a local medical specialist as saying they had received a donation of advanced medical facilities worth 400,000 yuan (US$48,484) from nationwide.

"The difficulties we are facing in treating the injuries are not that demanding thanks to the generous donations,'' the specialist, who was not identified by name, said Tuesday.

Aftershocks continued to rock the region Tuesday with the largest ones reaching more than 5.0 on Richter scale.

People's Liberation Army soldiers, militias and police joined the round-the-clock rescue efforts, while health workers busily treated the injured.

The central government and the State Seismological Bureau have dispatched task forces to the region to help with the rescue work.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has allocated 8 million yuan (US$960,000) to the region. Some 9,000 tents have been sent to the quake victims while 1,500 quilts are on the way.

The epicenter was in sparsely populated Jiashi County, but three townships of Bachu County with 50,000 residents suffered more devastation.

In Qiongkuer Qiake, a township of Bachu, about 240 villagers died in the quake when their mud-brick houses collapsed.

Villagers piled cotton-padded quilts in the streets for the homeless. Many stayed out of their homes, fearing another aftershock could bring the roof down, witnesses in the township said.

Water and electricity systems were badly damaged in affected areas, while more than 11,300 farm animals were killed as barns and stalls collapsed.

No foreign nationals were known to have died, a local civil affairs official told China Daily.

The Kashi government ordered bakeries to bake 80,000 loaves of "nang,'' or traditional Uygur flat bread, for earthquake victims each day.

Funerals for the victims -- many of them members of the Muslim ethnic group -- followed the tradition of burying family members on the same day of death.

Shi Dagang, leader of Kashi, said one of the tasks was to keep order of the funerals.

According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan, the Chinese government has not appealed to the international community but some countries have already expressed their willingness to provide funds and materials to aid the victims.

The spokesman said China is grateful to these countries.

He added United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has expressed his sympathy to the families of the victims.

"The Chinese government will do its utmost to search and rescue those injured in the quake no matter what,'' said Kong.

The China Red Cross Society has set up a special bank account to accept donations in aid of the disaster areas.

The account with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China will accept donations from both at home and overseas. The account number is 02000010090144132-52.

The society has also opened a 24-hour hotline for donations with the number 86-10-65139999.