"Everything is reduced to ruins'

"Everything is reduced to ruins'
Digging by hand, rescuers managed to free a five-year-old boy (above) whose legs were injured.

WHAT:6.1 earthquake in Yunnan, China

WHEN: Sunday

TOLL: 410 people killed; 80,000 homes destroyed

Rescuers dug through homes even during rainstorms, desperate to find survivors from the quake which devastated Ludian county, about 370km north-east of Yunnan, China.

Rescuers digging in the debris by hand freed a five-year-old boy whose legs were injured, Xinhua reported.

It also said firefighters rescued 32 people who had been trapped. They also retrieved 43 bodies.

Drenched survivors, some half-naked, sat along muddy roads in the rain waiting for food and medication.

Medics were reporting severe shortages of medicine and an inability to perform operations on the severely injured, while rescuers said their work was hampered by continuous downpours and quake-triggered landslides.

Miss Ma Yaoqi, 18, a volunteer in the quake zone, told Hamilton Spectator by phone that at least half of the buildings - from the city centre of Zhaotong to the hardest-hit town of Longtou ­­­- had collapsed. The rest were damaged.

"I saw dead bodies being wrapped in quilts and carried away," said Miss Ma, who arrived with 20 other volunteers on Monday. "Some were wrapped with small quilts. Those must be kids."

Overhead footage of the quake zone shot by state broadcaster CCTV showed older houses flattened but newer multi-storey buildings still standing.

Dozens of trucks carrying paramilitary troops with banners declaring "Help is on the way" travelled from capital Kunming to Zhaotong on Monday evening.

Heavy rain and thunderstorms in the area were complicating efforts to bring tents, water, food and other relief supplies to survivors. Roads had caved in, forcing rescuers to travel on foot.

Meanwhile, relatives are facing the stark probability that only the remains of their loved ones could be found.

ANXIOUS FAMILY

Ms Li Shanyan watched anxiously as rescuers dug through the debris of her home in Longtoushan, the epicentre of the quake, searching for her 71-year-old aunt, AFP reported.

"We could still hear her yesterday morning," said the 35-year-old. "(The rescuers) dug for a whole day and couldn't find her." The house is made of yellow earth, with a tiled roof.

"It was flattened, all flattened," she said. "We couldn't salvage anything -all was buried in there. Everything is reduced to ruins.

"It's just like Wenchuan in 2008," she said, referring to the huge earthquake in neighbouring Sichuan province that killed more than 80,000 people, China's deadliest quake since 1950.

Moments later, Ms Li sobbed as rescuers dug out her aunt's lifeless body.

A landslide on a nearby mountain two weeks ago has hampered relief efforts, residents said, leaving a small bridge the only connection between Longtoushan and the outside world.

"Water in the wells is all tainted with mud," Ms Li said.

"The government distributes a little (food and water), which we give to old people and children first." Each adult has about a half a bottle of water each day, she said.

"I feel too sad to eat, though there is not much to eat anyway."


This article was first published on August 6, 2014.
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