Red Cross teams in Yunnan shifting to reconstruction work

Red Cross teams in Yunnan shifting to reconstruction work
A soldier disinfects a tent camp in Ludian county, Yunnan province, on Thursday.

The Red Cross Society of China has shifted its focus to post-disaster reconstruction in quake-hit Ludian county, Yunnan province, as the key 72-hour period for rescue work has passed.

As of Thursday, the magnitude-6.5 quake had killed 615 people.

"The Red Cross Society is not only focusing on rescuing people buried in rubble, but also on post-disaster reconstruction from the beginning," said Sun Shuopeng, leader of the society's earthquake rescue team.

According to Sun, the society sent out 200 rescuers in four teams. Of these, 130 are assigned to search for and rescue residents buried in rubble, 20 are mainly in charge of building public restrooms in the disaster area, 20 are in charge of the water supply, and another 30 are assigned to distribute supplies.

Sun said that 800 tents have been sent to the epicenter. About 500 of them have already been set up. The society plans to pitch the remaining 300 tents at the resettlement centre. But first, it will buy 190 metric tons of rice and 1,300 beds.

Most of the victims don't have beds and sleep either on the floor or on thin boards or plastic bags. Temperatures are low during the night in the disaster area.

"Forty thousand beds are needed in the disaster area," Sun said.

The society's water supply vehicle, which can provide for 20,000 people, arrived on Wednesday after a traffic jam.

The team in charge of public hygiene plans to build 200 public restrooms in the disaster area.

"Ludian is on the earthquake belt, which suffered an earthquake in 2004. The society will assist the local government in choosing appropriate places to build new communities," Sun said, adding that new neighborhoods will have escape routes and storage rooms for use in emergencies.

Ding Gang, deputy director of the Red Cross Society in Qingdao, said victims often ask rescuers to search for personal property such as deposit books and other valuable assets that have been buried in rubble.

"It is hard to say no to victims, as their requests are very reasonable. However, since we are short-staffed, our search to save lives must take priority," Ding said, adding that it is important for rescuers to explain this to victims.

"The rescue work is not only digging up a number of bodies, but also distributing goods and resettlement," Ding added.

Zhao Baige, the society's executive vice-president, said at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday that the society has collected 38 million yuan ($6.15 million) to help victims.

He Qinghua, deputy director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission's Disease Control and Prevention Bureau, said at a news briefing on Thursday that health workers in the quake zone were preparing for a possible outbreak of tuberculosis.

"It's a tough job to ward off the TB risk, as people are highly concentrated," he said, adding that Yunnan province has long had a relatively high TB rate.

Also, "the risk of intestinal infections is recognised", he said.

In response, infectious disease control experts have been sent to the quake zone to help avert or contain any infection outbreak. 

At a glance

1.6 billion yuan allocated for relief

The central government will allocate an additional 1.6 billion yuan ($259 million) to support relief efforts in Yunnan province after a magnitude-6.5 quake rocked the region on Sunday, the National Committee for Disaster Reduction said.

About 600 million yuan has already been allocated. The committee vowed to expedite the transportation of relief supplies.

32 severely injured sent to Yibin

Thirty-two people severely injured in the quake have been sent to neighbouring Yibin, Sichuan province, for medical treatment.

The 32 injured victims - the youngest of whom is 3 and the oldest 71 - arrived by train on Wednesday night with their family members.

Yibin Mayor Xu Jin met the injured at the railway station and guaranteed that all of the patients will receive timely treatment.

Singapore Red Cross donates $50,000

The Singapore Red Cross has donated $50,000 in humanitarian aid to support the survivors of the earthquake.

The contribution will be used for immediate relief supplies, such as tents, food, water and medicine, the SRC said on Thursday.

Benjamin William, secretary-general and CEO of the SRC, said it was working with the Red Cross Society of China to help survivors as soon as possible.

Disease control efforts underway

In efforts to prevent an outbreak of infectious disease, rescue and relief forces and local authorities are dispatching disease control workers to villages affected by Sunday's magnitude-6.5 quake.

"Our work priority will lie in disease control as the next step in quake relief in the coming days, and we have already dispatched a large number of disease control workers to the quake-hit villages of Longtoushan township," said Ruan Lin, head of Ludian county's disease control and prevention centre.

Roads to some villages have not yet been repaired so the workers often have to walk to their destinations, carrying disinfectant tablets and spraying equipment.

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