Sichuan Province, China: Earthquake OCHA Situation Report No. 5

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 19 May 2008
NOTE: This report is based on information received from the office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator (UNRC) in China, UN partners, and the media.

Key Summary

- Tents are urgently needed and have been requested as a high priority by the Government of China.

- Donors are encouraged to report their contributions, including in-kind contributions, to OCHA's Financial Tracking System (FTS),


1. On 12 May 2008 a major earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter Scale struck Wenchuan County, Aba Prefecture some 92 km northwest of Chengdu city, the capital of Sichuan Province. The earthquake took place at 14:48 Beijing time and tremors were felt as far as Wuhan, Shanghai and Beijing. Subsequently, a total of 149 aftershocks with a magnitude of 4 or higher were registered, which included 54 aftershocks with a magnitude above 5.

2. According to official statistics, the confirmed number of dead is 32,173 in Sichuan Province alone. As of 19 May, the death toll has exceeded 34,073 with an additional 245,108 persons injured; 14,000 estimated under rubble. The Government of China expects the death toll to surpass 50,000 and an estimated 5.7 million have been evacuated as of 16 May.

3. According to the Ministry of Health, around 52,934 people have been hospitalized nationwide while 7,979 people have recovered. Around 3,304 people have died while hospitalized.

Environmental Situation

4. According to UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) in China, the two facilities in Shifang city continue to leak sulphuric acid and ammonia due to aftershocks. The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) is coordinating the monitoring and control of the impact on-site and has reported that the water quality of nearby Shiting River is so far normal. All nuclear facilities in the earthquake-hit areas are reported as safe and secure.

5. Landslides have been occurring due to the aftershocks, blocking roads and railway, as well as resulting in the formation of an estimated 18 lakes. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, 33,300 hectares of farmland, including more than 10,000 hectares of wheat and rape, more than 20,000 hectares of vegetables, have been damaged in the 13 worst-hit cities and counties.

6. According to the Chinese State Council Earthquake Rescue and Relief Headquarters, none of the reservoirs in the earthquake-affected area have collapsed although many reservoirs, hydropower stations, dams, and water locks have been seriously damaged. The Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) has sent 25 task forces to the affected area to assist local water authorities in inspecting damages and implementing contingency measures. The Wuyi and Fengshou Reservoirs (An County); the Yuanmen and Xiangjiagou Reservoirs (Jiangyou city); the Hongqi Reservoir (Dianjiang County); and small reservoirs, embankments and drinking water projects in Shuifu and Suijiang County have been damaged.


7. For the first time since 1998, the Government of China is actively welcoming assistance from the international community. The Government has indicated that cash transfers and in-kind contributions are welcomed, as demand is far greater than supply. Large quantities of tents, blankets, clothes, food, bottled water, flood lights, candles, tarpaulins, and environmental detection equipment are urgently needed. Tents remain the highest priority need.

8. There have been no major outbreaks of infectious diseases or public health emergencies in the earthquake-affected area. However, in some affected areas, including Qinchuan County, an increase in the cases of diarrhea has been reported. Medical supplies, disinfection medication, and medical facilities are in urgent need. A total of 58 cases of gas gangrene were reported by local health authorities

9. The Government of China reiterated that international personnel teams would not be broadly accepted at present, although teams offered bilaterally have been accepted on a case-by-case basis. The Government stated that there would be a role for the international community in rehabilitation and reconstruction.

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