Homeless at risk of further tremors after quake

By Wu Jiachun and Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-05 06:56

Li Wenfen, 52, a local resident, cries in front of her collapsed house after a strong earthquake hit Pu'er, in southwest China's Yunnan province, June 4, 2007.[Reuters]

NING'ER, Yunnan: Rescue teams are being urged to speed up their efforts to help the huge number of people affected by Sunday's quake as bad weather is forecast for the area, officials said yesterday.

Gao Xusheng, Party secretary for Pu'er, Southwest China's Yunnan Province, said that people who are now living outside following the quake were at risk from aftershocks that might cause more buildings to collapse.

The local seismological bureau has already recorded more than 1,000 small-scale aftershocks since Sunday and has warned that quakes measuring around 5 to 6 on the Richter scale might strike again, Gao said.

"The currently hot weather and rainy days to come pose a huge threat to the lives of people living outside," he said.

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"Large scale precipitation is likely to trigger landslides and mud flows and they could demolish even more homes."

Sunday's earthquake, which measured 6.4 on the Richter scale and was one of the largest recorded in the impoverished province over the past decade, killed three people and injured 313, 28 of them severely, Cao said.

It affected 536,000 residents in 51 towns and villages in Ning'er County, part of Pu'er City, he said.

The source of the quake was just 5 km underground and this is thought to have heightened its intensity. It devastated the county's communication, transport and infrastructure links and is expected to have an economic cost of about 2.5 billion yuan ($327 million), Cao said.

More than 360,000 houses were damaged by the tremor, a third of them seriously and a quarter of them razed to the ground.

Some 2,000 tents, as well as quilts and clothing, were rushed to the site to provide basic shelter for those made homeless.

But more tents are needed, as the number of residents in need of evacuation is now about 180,000, Gao said.

Kong Chuizhu, the vice-governor of Yunnan, promised that all residents affected by the quake would be moved to new homes before next year's Spring Festival.

Kong, who is overseeing the rescue and rebuilding work, also warned officials not to misappropriate funds allocated to the recovery program.

The rescue fund from the central and provincial governments as well as donations from other provinces currently stood at about 60 million yuan, he said.

"The money will be used to save lives," he said.

"It is a situation that no one should have to deal with alone."

Kong also said local authorities would crack down on any vendors caught trying to profiteer from the crisis.

Li Liguo, vice-minister of civil affairs, said it was imperative to conduct appraisal work on the damaged houses to prevent more injuries from collapses.

Ning'er County has a population of 190,000, with the majority belonging to the Hani and Yi ethnic minority groups.

(China Daily 06/05/2007 page3)

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