Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday afternoon visited the area torn by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake in China's Sichuan Province, calling for wasting no time to save lives.
In the epicenter, Lushan County of Ya'an City, Li visited temporary settlements, hospitals, tents and climbing on a heap of ruin to see the disaster situation, expressed condolences to the victims and the survivors, and guided the rescue and relief work on site.
The earthquake hit Lushan County at 8:02 a.m. Beijing time Saturday. Authorities said at least 160 people have been killed and more than 6,700 injured as of 0:40 a.m. Sunday Beijing Time.
As the electricity supply had not yet been resumed, Li had to hold a meeting late Saturday night with flashlights in a tent in the epicenter Lushan County after seeing the disaster situation on the afternoon.
After listening to the reports from officials of Sichuan Province, the armed forces, armed police force and relevant government departments, Li endorsed the current rescue and disaster relief work, saying that the priority work of Sichuan province under current situation is the rescue and disaster relief, with saving lives as the chief mission.
Li urged local officials to check every house and make the utmost effort to save lives so long as there is one gleam of hope, deploy capable medical personnel to treat and cure the injured, and transfer seriously injured people outside in time so as to lower the mortality rate and disability rate.
Transportation must be unimpeded, said Li, adding that the railway and transportation departments should make every effort to facilitate the entry of tents, quilts and other materials into the quake-hit area. Vehicles in the area should give way to rescue units and medical teams so that they can reach the places that need them.
Li decided to allocate 20,000 more tents and 800 sets of mobile houses to the disaster area, and asked the railway and transportation departments to deliver them as soon as possible.
Li called for making clear the allowance standard for temporary resettlement of victims, and ensure enough funds for disaster relief and resettlement work.
As aftershocks continue to hit the area, Li urged relevant departments to organize experts to assess the damage of buildings and eliminate any hidden dangers.
Li called for the service of more professionals with know-how to deal with the aftermath of disaster in a scientific way. He ordered 200 more search and rescue specialists to arrive in the quake-hit area on Saturday night.
Li also called for an integrated and effective command mechanism for disaster relief, asking all the relevant organs to carry out their responsibilities and cooperate with each other to ensure the rescue work proceed in a timely, well-organized and scientific way.
He ordered electricity suppliers to bring back power before 9 p.m. Saturday. He visited the Lushan Middle School, where many people had been relocated, after he learned that power supply had been restored in some temporary settlements and hospitals.
Li arrived at the disaster area on Saturday afternoon by helicopter shortly after he arrived at Qionglai airport in the southwestern province from Beijing.
When visiting the county hospital in Lushan, Li asked the patients injured in the quake about their feelings and the conditions of their family members, reassuring them that the Party and government will make the utmost effort to treat them.
After learning the medical staff's poor living conditions and the shortage of first aid materials, Li urged local government and relevant central departments to guarantee the logistics and the supply of medical resources.
Li later visited Shuangshi and Longmen, the two townships that were damaged the most in the quake. In spite of the danger of continuous aftershocks, Li mounted a heap of ruins and asked rescue workers whether there were still people buried in the ruins.
"The current priority is to save lives," said Li, "we should grasp the golden period for saving lives and waste no moment."
He urged rescue workers to search every corner of the ruins to ensure no life will be missed.
Villagers crowded around after knowing Li had come, telling the premier about the situation at the moment of the quake and the damages to their families. Li listened carefully, and comforted a senior village, saying that the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the government will help them to pass the difficult time.
Li called a meeting at the front-line headquarters in Longmen Township, saying it is important to ensure enough tents on Saturday night for quake victims and prevent new casualties in aftershocks and secondary disasters. He also urged military units on rescue missions to restore communications to the isolated Baoxing County.
Li asked people in Sichuan not to be depressed by the disaster.
Li left Beijing for Sichuan at 13:15 p.m. Saturday. During the flight, Li listened to reports from relevant ministries and armed forces.
"The current most urgent issue is grasping the first 24 hours after the quake's occurrence, the golden time for saving lives, to take scientific rescue measures and save peoples' lives," Li said on the plane.
"Life is the most important thing and the top priority is saving lives, " Li said. No minute or even second should be delayed during the "golden rescue period" in the first 72 hours after the quake.
He urged rescuers to examine every house to ensure all the injured residents are saved amid continuous aftershocks.
Deaths and injuries should be reduced to the minimum. Medical staff must treat rescued people in a timely manner, Li said.
He also ordered the guarantee of accommodation, food and safe water for residents in the quake zone as well as measures against any epidemic situation.
Li called for efforts to prevent further tragedies caused by aftershocks and geological disasters such as landslides. Public awareness of self-protection should also be promoted by government departments.
He urged relevant departments to provide enough tents, materials for first aid, vehicles and other rescue and relief materials, waste no time to repair damaged facilities concerning electricity, communications and roads, so as to ensure timely and accurate delivery of disaster relief resources.
All reserve forces for disaster relief should be on stand-by 24 hours everyday to provide possible support for disaster areas.
Li urged strengthening the cooperation between central and local governments, so as to ensure scientific, effective, orderly and vigorous disaster-relief work.
He odered releasing accurate information on the disaster situation, quake-relief work as well as death toll and injuries in a timely manner so as to boost people' s confidence and thus make them reassured.
He also demanded preparation for post-disaster reconstruction work.
"We once underwent catastrophes and have experience in dealing with them. We have quite a fine emergency response system," Li said, adding that "under the strong leadership of the Party and government, and as long as we unite as one and conduct rescue work scientifically, we are able to minimize the losses and overcome the disaster."
Earlier in the day, Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered all-out efforts to rescue victims and minimize deaths and injuries.
The State Council, or the cabinet, has launched a first-grade emergency response to the earthquake. Emergency teams of ministries, armed forces and armed police are heading to the quake zone.
The epicenter, with a depth of 13 km, was monitored at 30.3 degrees north latitude and 103.0 degrees east longitude.
Ya'an has a population of 1.53 million and is known as the hometown of the giant panda. It is about 140 kilometers away from the provincial capital Chengdu City.