Rescue efforts for Sichuan quake continue amid rain, rockfalls after 'golden 72 hours' ends as death toll reaches 86
Published: Sep 08, 2022 10:03 PM


Chinese rescue forces continued their search and rescue missions on Thursday amid rain, rockfalls and landslides in the epicenter of the 6.8-magnitude earthquake in Luding county, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, after the "golden 72 hours" for rescue ended.  

The earthquake so far has resulted in 86 deaths -- 50 from Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which administers Luding county, and 36 from Ya'an city. Thirty-five people were still missing and more than 400 people were injured, Sichuan authorities said on Thursday.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said on Thursday that communication in quake-stricken townships in Luding and Shimian counties had been restored as of 11 am Thursday. 

As of Thursday, more than 10,000 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, according to Sichuan authorities. 

The earthquake has affected 100,000 people, resulted in the collapse of 432 houses and serious damage to 4,533 houses. 

Of the 33 roads in villages that have been cut off, 23 of them had been repaired by 11 am Thursday. 

Authorities said at Thursday's press conference that due to severe road damage, geological disasters and rainfall, the rescue task in some villages is extremely difficult but rescue forces will overcome difficulties to ensure the rescue mission covers all the affected regions.

Firefighters from the Garze forest fire brigade were among the first rescuers to arrive at the epicenter in Luding on Monday, and they raced against time to rescue people for three days with their bare hands as continued mudslides and landslides after the earthquake cut off roads and bridges, and left heavy machines and vehicles unable to reach villages. 

Rescuers transfer an earthquake-affected person near Moxi Town of Luding County, southwest China's Sichuan Province, Sep 7, 2022. Photo:Xinhua

Rescuers transfer an earthquake-affected person near Moxi Town of Luding County, southwest China's Sichuan Province, Sep 7, 2022. Photo:Xinhua

On Thursday, 45 firefighters at Mogangling village in Luding county climbed cliffs with ropes for two hours to get to a collapsed mountain for a rescue mission, Yao Qiangqiang, a firefighter of the brigade, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Yao said that the firefighters carried life detectors and rope rescue equipment as they walked through forests and mountains, with all roads and bridges cut off by landslides and mudslides.  

"It was really dangerous to use ropes to climb the near-vertical cliff while the fast-flowing torrents raged below, and it took us two hours to reach the collapsed mountain," Yao said. 

Frequent rockfalls and continued rain made things more difficult. Big rocks would fall from the mountain every few minutes and rescue forces had to avoid them while searching for signs of life and setting up rescue equipment, he said. 

On Thursday, armed police from Liangshan rescued and transferred two tourists who had been trapped in a mountain in Caoke township since Monday, according to China Central Television (CCTV). 

Liu Lei, a firefighter from Kangding forest fire brigade who was in Mogangling village of Luding county, told the Global Times that his team has finished transferring villagers and has now started to help them set up tents and transfer supplies to ensure their lives.  

Rock climbing was not enough to rescue villagers who lived and were stranded in the mountains, and rescue forces sometimes had to build bridges and make stretchers mostly with their hands. 

Ye Yang, a firefighter with the Yajiang county forest fire brigade, told the Global Times that he and his teammates cut down trees, tied the logs with ropes and iron wires, and laid the logs to make a bridge over the roaring Dadu River in Moxi township. They then carried injured villagers with bamboo-made stretchers to safe places as the only bridge in the region had collapsed. Firefighters transferred 300 local villagers using the temporary bridge for nearly two days

The local meteorological department said that rainstorms in the epicenter in Luding are likely to last until Friday, and local authorities should enhance monitoring and warnings of landslides and mudslides.  

The Sichuan provincial water resources department and meteorological department on Thursday afternoon jointly issued a blue warning for flash floods from 8 pm Thursday to 8 pm Friday in regions including Luding, Kangding and Shimian that were hit by the earthquake, and authorities were urged to prepare to transfer and relocate residents. 

A Sichuan-based geologist who requested anonymity told the Global Times that as the earthquake took place where the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau and Sichuan Basin meet, an area full of high mountains, steep slopes, deep valleys and canyons, mudslides and landslides are likely, especially if it rains, the expert said, and the risk of these secondary disasters may last for years as the quake loosened rock formations.