CWS Situation Report: China Earthquake Jan. 20, 2000

Church World Service is the Humanitarian Agency of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
35 Denominations & Communions Working Together to Meet Human Needs

SITUATION: Casualties from the two Jan. 14 earthquakes that measured 5.9 and 6.5 on the Richter Scale, respectively, in Dayao and Yao An counties in southwest China's Yunnan Province were not as high as might be expected, reports the Amity Foundation, long-time CWS partner and Action by Churches Together (ACT) International member.

That was because the earthquakes occurred in succession and people awakened by the first quake had time to move to safer ground by the time the second one struck, according to Amity in a report issued by ACT. However, the destruction of civilian houses and public buildings remained heavy with some 156,138 out of the total population of 200,000 rendered homeless. At least five people were reported killed, according to initial reports.

Yao An County is one of the poorest counties in China, inhabited mostly by Yi and Bai minorities. Moreover, Guan Tun Township is one of the communities most affected by the earthquakes with 2 persons killed, 256 people injured and a total of 16,183 persons affected. Some 21,204-room units were either damaged or collapsed and 25 schools destroyed or damaged.

ACT reports that food, clothing, cotton quilts and shelters are the most urgent needs of the disaster survivors. Local governments have provided some food. With their own homes destroyed, the majority of people have no choice but to crowd into home-made, make-shift tents made of straw curtains with a thin plastic covering on the outside through which the wind whistles.

Night temperatures have dropped well below zero centigrade, making it almost as cold inside the tents as it is outside. Most of the survivors have insufficient clothes and cotton quilts to keep themselves warm in the freezing nights.

RESPONSE: Amity immediately sent an assessment to the region and allocated $48,426 from its revolving fund as its initial response to the earthquakes. After initial assessment and consultations with the local governments, Amity has decided to target Guan Tun Township for assistance, with 3,000 cotton quilts will be purchased and distributed to 3,000 of the most vulnerable families, along with 3,000 pieces of plastic sheeting (each 40 square meters) to help them set up temporary shelter.

The purchase of quilts and plastic sheeting along with the selection of beneficiary families is already under way, ACT reports. The first batch of assistance materials is expected to arrive in the area in two days. (In addition to the Amity response, the Hong Kong Christian Council is sending HK$100,000 from its Emergency Fund as part of an initial response.)

ACT expects to issue an appeal of $200,000, and CWS will support that appeal with an amount to be determined. Denominations can support the appeal either directly to ACT or by sending contributions to CWS/ERO in New York (CWS/ACT Appeal, China earthquake, #976309). CWS will channel funds to ACT. Those wanting more information on this ACT response, should contact the CWS Emergency Response Office. Or visit the ACT Web Site at:

Call the CWS HOTLINE for updates: (800) 297-1516, ext. 111.

For further information about disasters to which Church World Service is responding, contact CWS Emergency Response.

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