Quake devastates remote region in China

The strongest earthquake to hit China for decades, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, struck a remote part of the northwestern region of Xinjiang on 24 February. Some 268 people died in the tremor, around 4,000 were injured and nearly 120,000 made homeless. In total, half a million people were affected. Virtually all the casualties were in Bachu county, where nine villages were reduced to rubble. Over 100 schools and 16 hospitals and clinics were destroyed, meaning those hurt in the quake had to be treated in the open air. The local Red Cross, boosted by an emergency relief team from the regional capital, Urumqi, distributed thousands of winter jackets and quilts and assisted the People's Liberation Army and the local authorities as they conducted search and rescue activities. A national Red Cross appeal raised almost 8 million renminbi (US$ one million) in cash or kind, including medicines from pharmaceutical companies. Distribution of relief items has been hampered by the region's remoteness, wet and snowy conditions and strong aftershocks. With search and rescue efforts now complete, attention is turning to reconstruction, though there is still a need for more tents and drinking water in this cold, arid area.