First Situation Report - Earthquake in Yunnan, the People's Republic of China

Situation Report
Originally published
(Oxfam Hong Kong's Reference Code - EQ981126)
General Situation

Two earthquakes, one measuring 6.2 and the other 5 on the Richter scale shook Yunnan (Ninglang county) and Sichuan (Yanyuan county) provinces on Thursday, 20 November 1998. The most update figures in these two counties are, according to Ninglang County's and Yanyuan County's Relief Headquarters, three persons have died, and the number of injured reached 4,137, of which 233 were in serious condition, and 2,500 caught the flu after sitting out a weekend snowstorm in makeshift shelters. After the two earthquakes, the region was hit by more than 200 aftershocks reaching up to 3.8 on the Richter scale. Seismology officials are predicting of a big earthquake that will hit the country. This is the third tremor to be recorded since last month.

Much of the injuries were attributed to the double quake as people returned to their houses after fleeing from the first tremor. The second quake hit seven minutes after the first one did, catching many people unawares.

There were sixteen affected townships in Ninglang, the Yi Autonomous County in Yunnan and Liangshan Prefecture in neighbouring Sichuan Province. Within Ninglang County, there were nine most affected townships including Daxin, Lanniqing (the epicentere), Hungqi, Xinyingpan, Changzhanhe, Ningli, Paomaping, Hongqiu and Zhanhe. In its close proximity was Yanyuan County of Liangshan Prefecture in Sichuan Province. Within Yanyuan County, there were five most affected townships - Changpo, Taozhi, Huangzhao, Yantang and Potai.

Oxfam Hong Kong Programme Officer, Xinzhe, went from Kunming to Ninglang county last Saturday, accompanied by a county official, for a preliminary assessment of the situation. Reports indicated that residents of Ninglang county, one of the poorest in the province, are in desperate need of emergency assistance. An estimated 2,000 houses were totally destroyed, countless others damaged. The earthquake affected 180,000 people out of a 220,000 population. Initial reports from Yanyuan also indicate of at least a thousand affected households.

To complicate matters, the counties that were hit were designated as "poor" as many families here live below the local poverty threshold. Communications had broken down within Yanyuan county, and relief workers had to travel by foot to the affected areas. The weather is about 7 degrees c in the mornings and from -3 degrees c to -4 degrees c in the evenings. There is light drizzle and some snowfall in the area. At least four major access roads were severely damaged by landslides and cracks from reservoirs. Water tanks and pipes were also severely damaged. Drinking water facilities were disrupted; and electricity supply was discontinued in some areas. The government estimates economic losses at 5.55 billion yuan.

Big Earthquake Still Expected

The Provincial Earthquake Bureau warns of still a bigger earthquake to hit the area. This warning forced many residents to camp out in the open. Victims are also hesitant to use existing structures, as many of the buildings in the area have sustained some form of infrastructure damage, including the lodging house used by Oxfam staff and other relief workers.

Governments' Response

Provincial officials were dispatched to the quake-hit areas, followed by 150 medical workers. Civil Affairs Bureau officials brought with them quilts, winter clothing and tents to provide to the homeless and affected population. Provincial authorities also released some RMB20 million (USD2.4million) for the emergency response. The provincial government has also appealed for international and domestic aid over the weekend in behalf of the victims.

Oxfam Hong Kong's Work

Oxfam Hong Kong has been implementing a long-term development programme in Yunnan Province since 1988, and thus is very familiar with the social and economic situation, and has always had a very close working relationship with all levels of local government. Oxfam project staff based in Kunming are experienced in disaster relief work, having organized several relief and rehabilitation programmes in the province since 1995.

Oxfam will engage in a quick relief action and plans to distribute food to last a family for two months, blankets, warm clothing and materials for wind-proof shelter construction to about 3,200 households (approximately 14,000 people) in the townships of Ninglang and Yanyuan. The beneficiaries are of the Yi minority ethnic group, and those chosen were poor villagers who have been seriously affected by the disaster.

Rehabilitation plans are also being drawn up in the same areas after providing these emergency items. Oxfam staff is in contact with local Red Cross and MSF who have also arrived at the scene for co-ordination.

Yuen Ling, Programme Officer - Emergencies in China (e-mail: Teddy Arellano - Emergencies Programme Officer ( Oxfam Hong Kong 13/f, Breakthrough Centre, 191 Woosung Street, Jordan, Kowloon, Hong Kong - SAR

Oxfam Hong Kong is an independent development and relief agency based in Hong Kong. It works with poor people regardless of race, sex, religion or politics in their struggle against poverty, distress and suffering. Oxfam Hong Kong is a member of Oxfam International.

Oxfam Hong Kong has been working in the People's Republic of China since 1987. It currently works with farmers and disadvantaged groups in seven provinces - Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangdong and Guangxi provinces in southwestern China and Gansu, Shaanxi and Qinghai provinces in northwestern China.

Teddy Arellano
Programme Officer - Emergencies
Oxfam Hong Kong
13/f, Breakthrough Centre
191 Woosung St, Jordan, Kowloon, Hong Kong
ph. (852)28213252 fx. (852)2789-9545 email.<>