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Death toll reaches 26 in Baoxing

Updated: 2013-04-23 02:20
By Tang Yue in Baoxing, Sichuan, and Wu Wencong in Beijing ( China Daily)

Roads cleared, phone service restored, but problems remain

The death toll in Baoxing — the only isolated county after Saturday's earthquake due to telecommunication failures, power shortages and damaged roads — had reached 26 by 10 pm on Monday, with 18 still missing, 2,500 wounded, 86 of which in severe condition, and 58,000 other people affected, according to figures released by the local government.

Death toll reaches 26 in Baoxing

Members of the Chinese International Search and Rescue Team make their way on Monday to Baoxing county, one of the worst-hit places in Saturday’s earthquake in Sichuan province. Wang Jing / China Daily

Power has been restored in about 50 percent of the county, and was fully restored in Bao-xing town and Lingguan town.

"The rescue force is enough in Baoxing," said Han Bing, Party chief of the county. "The weather report says there will be more rainfall in the coming days. So we will pay more attention to prevent geological disasters."

Death toll reaches 26 in BaoxingAll the buildings were damaged at different levels in the nine towns administered by Baoxing county, which is 40 kilometers from the quake's epicenter in Lushan county, with 100 percent damage in Baoxing town, Lingguan town and Daxi town. More than 46,000 houses were completely destroyed, and several mountains surrounding the county have collapsed.

By Tuesday morning, the precious first 72 hours when rescue efforts are most effective had passed. But several towns in Baoxing were still hit by power and water shortages.

By noon on Monday, all the roads leading to the nine towns from Baoxing town had been cleared for traffic, but landslides were still happening often. In some areas, people who wanted to use the roads had to follow instructions from the soldiers posted there, so that they could get the perfect moment to pass with the least probability of getting hit by a falling rock.

By about 4 pm on Monday, phone calls could be made to all the nine towns, but many still faced intermittent service.

Fallen rocks covered part of a parking lot near the gate of Bao-xing Hainan High School. Several motor tricycles with people inside were buried under the huge pile of rocks. Four have been pulled out since the rescue operations started at 8 am on Sunday.

"There must be more motor tricycles underneath, and also about three to five people, but we have sensed no life signs since we started our work," said Yang Jun, chief of the Aba prefecture's fire brigade.

"Since these are sandstones, the trapped people have likely choked to death already, if they were not killed right away after the collapse," he said.

Yang's team was the first rescue team to enter the area. They entered Baoxing town at 8 pm on Saturday.

Death toll reaches 26 in Baoxing

Quake survivors sleep in the open air at a temporary shelter set up at the stadium of Baoxing County New High School on Monday night because the shelter does not have enough tents. Cui Meng / China Daily

He said the road was OK for vehicles at first, but then rocks began to appear as they approached Baoxing. He saw three people dead after being hit by fallen rocks from the mountains and four other were injured.

Yue Xinghui, a 45-year-old woman who lives with her husband and father in Lingguan town, decided to head back home to Wulong town early Monday morning, which was isolated until the afternoon.

Worrying about his five other children at home, Yue's 81-year-old father ran even faster than her in the places where they had to cross on foot.

In the shelter located on the playground of Baoxing Hainan High School, 16-year-old Tang Chen was chatting with his classmates. He told China Daily that about 30 students from his class out of a total of 50 live in other towns. Most of them were at home when the earthquake hit the area on Saturday.

"They've brought news from their own hometowns as they gradually reached Baoxing town after the quake," he said. "Thankfully, so far, I've heard nothing serious."

The school building behind him, which was reconstructed in 2010 with aid from Hainan province after the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, has barely any damage seen from the outside. Some walls inside were damaged.

"The shaking was a lot lighter here during the 2008 quake, but the previous school building collapsed anyway," said Tang.

All school buildings in Bao-xing were reconstructed under stringent standards to be able to sustain at least magnitude-8 earthquakes, said Han, the county's Party chief. But he said that he felt very sad that a panda-themed scenic spot built in 2011 was destroyed in the quake. Baoxing is famous for the discovery of the world's first panda in 1869.

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