Disease prevention next in China quake recovery

Fatigued rescuers nap on the ground in Yiliang, Yunnan province.

The prevention of endemic diseases has become the most urgent issue in the quake-affected streets and villages in Yiliang county, Yunnan province, as the search for survivors draws close to an end.

With temperatures reaching 35 C and humidity very high, the risk of endemic diseases, including diarrhoea, flu and mosquito-borne viruses, are increasing, warns Zhao Yuanjun, deputy director of the health bureau of Yiliang county.

Cheng Lianyuan, vice-mayor of Zhaotong, told a news conference on Monday that rescuers have searched 95 per cent of the earthquake-affected areas and the priority task now lies in disease prevention.

However, Cheng promised rescuers would not give up any rescue effort when there is hope of life.

High temperatures are posing difficulties to rescuers involved in endemic prevention efforts. The rescuers have to wear special suits with disinfectant spray on their backs.

"It feels like taking a hot shower in the suit. But we know our job is crucial," said Tian Fusheng, a company commander of a regiment tasked with defending against chemical weapons from Kunming, capital of Yunnan province.

On Monday afternoon Tian and his team helped Huang Rong, a worker at a fish farm in the Luozehe township, to sterilize thousands of dead fish in ponds that were destroyed in the earthquakes.

Tian and his soldiers had to deal with the smell of rotting dead fish, the pungent smell of germicides, and most dangerously, occasional falling rocks from the mountain next to the fish pond.

Despite the risks and difficulties, Chen Yingxiang, a soldier from Tian's company, said he was lucky to join the rescue effort.

"If I do not come this time, I would probably regret it for the rest of my life," said Chen, who is retiring from military service in December.

"All soldiers crave glory and proof of self-worth. I would be proud if I can play my part in this disaster," he said.

Life at the epicenter

Despite the ongoing recovery efforts there were signs of life on Monday in areas surrounding the epicenter where the earthquake hit the hardest.

At Luozehe township in Yiliang, the electricity supply and cellphone connections have been resumed in the villages and streets that are easily accessible.

On Monday morning an estimated 1,000 local residents at the relocation site at the epicenter of the disaster area were given their first meal other than instant noodles since the earthquake struck.

The meal was thanks in part to contributions of vegetables from local residents, many of whom who also volunteered as cooks.

"The government sent in rice and meat and the locals plucked the vegetables from their fields," said Zhao Guizhong, an official from the Luozehe township.

"We offered them subsidies, but they refused. They say this is not the right time to ask for money," said Zhao.