Official worries over possible plague at Sichuan quake epicenter

Updated: 2008-05-16 00:41

YINGXIU TOWN, Sichuan -- Plague could break out in quake-hit areas if victims' bodies were not buried soon, a local official told Xinhua on Thursday.

Many bodies are trapped in debris and heavy-lifting gear cannot get through blocked roads to the disaster areas, said Bai Licheng, a senior Communist Party official of the Aba prefecture in Sichuan Province.

Since the destructive earthquake on Monday, Bai has been searching for survivors with a rescue team in Yingxiu of Wenchuan County, epicenter of the quake.

High temperatures would quicken the rotting of bodies, and plague would break out, he warned.

Some bodies are put together on the ground in the town, and there is already bad smell in the air.

"We are in urgent need of body bags," Bai said, adding there is an urgent need for food and water.

"Air-dropped food and drinking water are limited and far from meeting the demand," he said.

He said some survivors have fetched water from a mountain spring, but it is unclear if the water is safe for drinking.

On Thursday afternoon, Gao Qiang, deputy health minister, vowed that the central government aims to prevent the outbreak of large-scale epidemic.

He said the bodies of the dead would be handled properly as soon as possible to prevent harmful bacteria from growing.

"We should not add to the losses caused by natural disasters and let people suffer more just because we have not done our job well," said Gao.

The military sources just revealed that four temporary bridge had been built Thursday over the Zipingpu reservoir in Dujiangyan City, connecting the city with Yingxiu town.

Large-sized rescue equipments, including heavy-lifting gear, excavators, and bulldozers, and large number of troops would be sent into the epicenter, an officer with the Chengdu Military Area said.

At 8:20 p.m., the air force also began to airdrop large-sized rescue equipments to Yingxiu. The equipment would improve the efficiency of rescue missions carried out by the army, the military source said.

Chinese army and armed police personnel Thursday have reached all 58 counties and townships severely damaged in Monday's quake.

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