A 6.6 magnitude earthquake that struck China’s rural southwest Sichuan province left at least 179 dead and more than 6,700 injured, the Huffington Post reports. The earthquake struck shortly before 8 a.m. Saturday while many people were still at home, sleeping or having breakfast.
In addition, more than 2,000 aftershocks have rattled the area since the quake, Fox News reported.
The tremors were felt in Chengdu, one of China’s biggest cities and the capital of Sichuan Province. “I was working in the field when I heard the explosions of the earthquake, and I turned around and saw my house simply flatten in front of me,” said Fu Qiuyue, a 70-year-old farmer in Longmen.
Rescue workers struggled to reach the remote corner of the country on Sunday as a result of the narrowness of the road and landslides as well as traffic jams, the Chicago Tribune reports.
According to Kevin Xia of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, “Supplies have had difficulty getting into the region because of the traffic jams. Most of our supplies are still on the way.”
Two trucks of supplies from Chengdu’s Red Cross arrived at 4 a.m. with one of the relief officers inside. Jiang Zhongfa stated that “we drove for 12 hours to bring in 106 tents and 100 quilts,” Xinhua reports.
While aid continued to arrive, complaints were common among survivors, with some survivors pointing to family members in remote mountain villages who had received no help with shelter and were forced to live under Tarpaulins, reports the Associated Press.
Huang Mingxian expressed his frustration as he stated, “This morning is the first time in three days that we have gotten instant noodles, other areas have electricity and water, what about us.”
“Being without a home while having a child of this age is difficult,” Cao added, cradling her nine-month-old baby. “We can only rely on the government to help us.”
“I was scared. I’ve never seen an earthquake this big before,” said farmer Chen Tianxiong, 37, lying on a stretcher between tents.
The government deployed about 7,000 soldiers and People’s Armed Police officers to the affected area. By Saturday evening, there were so many rescue workers in the area that the government asked volunteers to stop coming.
While the quake has drawn in a flood of donations, many donors are looking toward private charity organizations rather than official groups who are known for corruption. This includes The Red Cross Society of China which in 2011 was struck with a scandal involving corruption.
The New York Times quotes Xu Shaolin, a commentator on societal issues and politics who said on his microblog: “It is so sad to see how much a state-run charity organization is struggling; the Red Cross in China evidently has a very low credibility.”
The Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived Saturday afternoon by helicopter in Ya’an to direct rescue efforts, reported the government’s Xinhua News Agency. After visiting hospitals and tents, Li stated that “the current priority is to save lives” while also telling patients to “treat and heal your wounds with peace of mind, the government will take care of all the costs for those severely wounded.”
The earthquake which struck in Lushan was along the same fault line that a devastating magnitude 7.9 quake struck on May 12, 2008, leaving 90,000 people dead or missing. The 2008 quake raised questions about poorly constructed schools that collapsed and killed thousands of students, the New York Times reports. It was that earthquake that prompted an extensive official relief effort, but many victims criticized the government for sending rescue efforts to the wrong places or failing to muster the equipment needed to lift victims from underneath concrete and brick.
Helicopters have been an obvious presence in the latest rescue efforts, used to reach outlying communities, unlike in 2008 when bad weather hampered their use in the critical first 36 hours. Fortunately, Xinhua reported that the Bifengxia panda preserve, which is near Lushan, was not affected by the quake. Dozens of pandas were moved to Bifengxia from another preserve, Wolong, after its habitat was wrecked by the 2008 quake.