Rescue workers race to find more earthquake survivors as end of 'golden 72 hours' nears
Published: Sep 07, 2022 10:57 PM
Firefighters rescue a piglet washed downstream in Luding, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, on September 7, 2022, the third day after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake shook the region, resulting in at least 74 deaths. Photo: IC

Firefighters rescue a piglet washed downstream in Luding, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, on September 7, 2022, the third day after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake shook the region, resulting in at least 74 deaths. Photo: IC

On the third day after the 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Sichuan, Chinese rescue forces - including firefighters, medics and soldiers - raced to search for survivors, rescue the injured and provide necessities for stranded villagers, as the "golden 72 hours" for rescue ticked away.

As of 8 am on Wednesday, 10,058 rescue personnel including soldiers, police, firefighters and medics, as well as nine helicopters, had been dispatched to check each house and ensure that no one was missed, authorities in Southwest China's Sichuan Province said on Wednesday afternoon. 

The death toll stood at 74 as of 2 pm on Wednesday - 40 from the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and 34 from Ya'an city - with at least 270 injured, after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake jolted Sichuan's Luding county on Monday noon. 

Most roads, communications and power facilities in the quake-stricken areas have been restored, but roads in three villages and communications for 14,000 people as well as 11 electricity lines were still under repair. Local authorities have relocated more than 20,000 affected residents. 

The assessment of 956 schools in Garze and Ya'an showed that 37, with more than 16,000 students, had suspended classes as of 11 am Wednesday due to varying degrees of damage or road disruptions. 

The local meteorological department said that the epicenter in Luding is likely to have rainstorms on Thursday and Friday, and local authorities should enhance monitoring and warning of landslides and mudslides.  

Firefighters from the Garze forest fire brigade were among the first rescuers to arrive at the epicenter in Luding on Monday, and they were racing against time to rescue people. 

As the road was cut off after the quake in Mogangling village of Luding county, 77 firefighters from the Garze forest fire brigade on Wednesday each carried an average of 60 kilograms of supplies including tents and food on their backs and trekked for about 7 kilometers to take these supplies to the quake-affected villagers, Yao Qiangqiang, a firefighter of the brigade, told the Global Times on Wednesday.  

In Detuo township, some of the team members transferred trapped villagers with canoes as the road was buried by landslides, Yao said. 

The situation in general was much better on Wednesday as most villagers had already been relocated to safe places, and the fire brigade will stay to help clear roads and provide supplies for the next few days, Yao said.

After the earthquake, the Chengdu forest fire brigade sent more than 170 firefighters on cross-regional rescue missions to Luding county and other places.

"Our rescue team has been working around the clock since Monday night without taking too much rest except for eating and drinking as we know now is the 'golden time' of rescue for earthquake victims," Yang Changjun, a staffer of the brigade, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Li Leiting, captain of the "Flying Leopard" rescue unit of the brigade, said the landslide was so severe that the road was almost completely destroyed when they arrived in the disaster areas. 

"We could not even find the original road, so we had to cut a road through relatively primitive jungle," he said. 

The team was mainly responsible for the search for victims, inspection of damaged houses and other work.

Due to the road collapse, rigorous mountainous environment and possible aftershocks, Li's team took the injured to the tarmac and sent them to hospitals by helicopters.

On Tuesday evening, local officials in Luding and officers and soldiers of the Sichuan-Xizang military station department of the PLA Xizang Military Command urgently built a simple crossing bridge over the Wandong River in Detuo Town. After overnight construction, another route was cleared, the Global Times learned from the command on Wednesday. 

The soldiers are now marching to the disaster area to deliver relief supplies and evacuate trapped residents. The Xizang Military Command also sent cooking trucks to the epicenter, providing hot food to more than 2,000 people. 

Local villagers joined the rescue mission as volunteers. A staffer at a local hotel located in the center of Luding county told the Global Times on Wednesday that the hotel was operating normally and life in the county had not been "greatly affected" by the quake. "Most people here have gone to the disaster-hit regions to help with rescue work," he said.

Since the earthquake on Monday, many countries expressed their sympathies to China. 

Mao Ning, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at Wednesday's media briefing that Russia and many other countries had sent condolences and expressed their willingness to provide support and assistance for China's relief efforts, and "we express our heartfelt thanks for that."

"We have the confidence to overcome the disaster and rebuild a beautiful homeland for people in the quake-hit areas," Mao said.