The death toll has risen to 589 in southwest China three days after an earthquake devastated Yunnan province on Sunday.
According to Chinese news agency Xinhua, the sudden rise in casualties comes as a result of delayed confirmation. This is a mountainous region, and the villages affected by this earthquake are remote and difficult to reach. The roads are damaged in many places and nonexistent in others.
So far, rescuers have found 2,401 injured, some of whom were taken by helicopter to nearby hospitals and medical clinics.
504 of the dead come from Ludian County, which received most of the earthquake’s fury. The remaining 72 were found in Qiaojia County. The earthquake’s epicenter struck in Longtoushan Township and has affected a million people in two cities, Zhaotong and Qujing.
The earthquake also left almost 230,000 people displaced, suffering from severe shortages of both food and clean water.
The “golden 72 hours” are ticking away, each minute carrying rescue teams closer to the point where finding survivors becomes unlikely. The local civil affairs department has reported that at least nine people are still missing in the earthquake’s aftermath.
The hunt continues as search dogs and rescuers work to reach remote villages and farms, seeking both the missing and unreported casualties. Slowed by continuing rain and impassable road damage, they are all aware of the pressure of time. The likelihood of survivors goes down swiftly after 72 hours.
Medical facilities in Zhaotong City have reported treating 1,947 earthquake victims. The seriously injured were transported to hospitals in Zhaotong while the less injured were sent to emergency medical clinics quickly erected in the earthquake-affected area. But hospitals and clinics are becoming overwhelmed as the medicine runs out, and still the injured pour in on stretchers, being carried as far as six miles (10 km) to reach trained personnel.
A landslide five miles (8.2 km) from the epicenter at Longtoushan Township has blocked the Niulan River and created a lake, forcing the evacuation of 4,200 residents in both Ludian and Qiaojia. Measures are being taken to relieve the rising waters; hydropower stations at the lower side of the river have sped up discharge rates to ease the pressure being caused by the blockage. The barrier lake has a water volume of 49.6 million cubic meters.
Technical specialists have said that the barrier lake continues to rise at a rate of six inches (16 cm) per hour.
The situation is grim and dangerous for earthquake victims and their rescuers alike. One young rescue worker is missing after he attempted to swim a barrier lake in search of survivors and was struck by falling rocks. In another part of the area, 60 soldiers had to be rescued from another flooding barrier lake on Tuesday.
The BBC has reported that repairs to the damaged roads is treacherous work, hampered by aftershocks, rockfalls, and continuing rainstorms. To ease congestion on the few roads into the earthquake-ravaged region, volunteers have been asked to stay away.
Water pipes and reservoirs were damaged in the earthquake, affecting over 300,000 people. Local water plants are supplying 50 tons of drinking water daily.
Other relief goods, such as food and temporary shelters, were brought to several villages by helicopter on Tuesday even as road repairs continue. On a major route between Zhaotong and Qiaojia, 25 million cubic meters of rocks and mud is being removed as quickly as the weather will allow.
But the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and other rescuers are making life-saving progress. Only a fourth of nearly 40,000 households in Zhaotong are still without electricity and in most places communications have been restored. A new count on the earthquake’s damage reveals that nearly 80,000 homes have collapsed while a further 124,000 were severely damaged.
As mentioned in the Inquisitr previously, Sunday’s earthquake was the strongest that Yunnan Province has experienced in 14 years.
[Images Courtesy Of Reuters, ITV, and China Daily]