Cascading waves of earth add to quake nightmare

Stricken villagers in Qinghai battle way through deep mud and debris

By Wang Xiaoyu in Minhe County, Qinghai and Ma Jingna in Jishishan County, Gans | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-22 07:14
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Rescuers continue clearing mud from Jintian. ZHANG LONG/XINHUA

A total of 36 households were demolished by the roiling earth, and most of the remaining homes were also damaged, making them unsafe.

"I think I will sleep in tents for the coming days. It is cold because of a lack of stoves and quilts, but I feel much safer staying there than sleeping in my house," Ma said.

With the temperature likely to fall to minus 15 C in the evening, the mud and sediment blocking the roads are frozen into small mounds coated in thin ice. During the day, the ice shimmers in the sun.

An Jun, an official with the Qinghai branch of the Red Cross Society of China, said diesel fuel that is supposed to withstand temperatures far below 20 C is frozen hard as a rock in the evening.

Red Cross officials erected 43 tents at a resettlement shelter on Tuesday afternoon, An said.

"The first night was excruciatingly cold. Each tent is designed to shelter four people, but we had to fit six in one of them due to the large number of displaced villagers and volunteers spending the night here. It was actually better that way, as more people huddling together create warmth," An said.

More relief supplies and rescue workers are heading toward Jintian.

Yang, the village Party chief, said that as of Thursday afternoon, he had only taken a nap since the quake struck. Grabbing a discarded bottle of water from the roadside, he poured some of the contents over his face to refresh himself.

"I don't have time to sleep, chat or wash myself. Before night falls today, I must distribute jackets and quilts to the villagers," he said.

An added that he expected Thursday night to be a little more comfortable, thanks to shipments of coal and heating stoves that arrived in the past two days.

"Local residents are used to setting up a heating stove in the center of their homes to keep warm in winter. Putting them in a tent not only dispels the night chill to some extent, but also makes them feel more at home," he said.

Around 5 pm on Thursday, a team of Red Cross workers who specialize in setting up sanitary toilets in disaster-stricken areas arrived in the village.

"There is so much more to do for the villagers affected by the quake, but I think that in the shelters, lives are slowly getting back on track, with villagers' basic demands being met," An said.

In addition to collecting materials to withstand the cold, the main priority in Jintian on Thursday was clearing mud from the roads.

Officials did not give a specific time for the mud-clearing work to be completed. The only main road leading to the village was closed to most vehicles on Thursday, except for trucks tasked with removing the mud.

At least 10 cranes and excavators were stationed near mud-covered areas. Every few minutes, a truck loaded with mud and debris was driven out of the village.

Han Chenglu, who lives in Bazigou village, Qinghai, about 100 km from Jintian, is one of six cooks and staff members working together at the beef noodle stall.

"Seeing these quake-stricken communities in person is completely different from reading about them in the news. Some villagers still have tears in their eyes when I hand them a bowl of noodles," he said.

The stall opens around 10 am and does not close until all the villagers have gone to sleep at night, he said, adding, "We are striving to make a small contribution to help those affected by the quake."

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