Saturday, September 8, 2012

SW China earthquakes claim 80 lives

YILIANG, Yunnan - Eighty people have been confirmed dead as of Saturday noon following multiple earthquakes that struck southwest China's Yunnan Province on Friday, local authorities said.
The death toll may climb further, as the quakes have seriously damaged telecommunications and traffic infrastructure, making it difficult to collect information, said a spokesman with the provincial civil affairs department.
Another 820 people were injured in the two quakes, which hit an area near Yiliang county in Yunnan and Weining county in Guizhou Province at 11:19 am and 12:16 pm Friday, respectively.
More than 200,000 people in Yunnan were relocated as more than 6,600 houses collapsed and another 430,000 damaged. Direct economic losses were estimated at 3.5 billion yuan ($552 million), according to the civil affairs department.
In Guizhou, two people had been reported injured as of 1 am Saturday, with more than 11,700 houses damaged, said the province's civil affairs department.
President Hu Jintao, who is in Russia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, has called for immediate efforts to help with disaster relief work.
Premier Wen Jiabao arrived at the quake zone early Saturday, stressing that efforts to save lives should come first to minimize casualties.
Saying that the first 72 hours are critical for post-quake rescue operations, Wen said rescuers must make their utmost efforts to find and rescue survivors.
Wen reached mountainous Yiliang county, one of the worst-hit areas, around 1 am Saturday. He has spent a sleepless night visiting quake survivors in local villages and hospitals since arriving.
Directing rescue work in a temporary tent in the quake zone, Wen said the top priority now is to save people. He asked rescuers to reach every village on Saturday.
The quakes have cut off electricity and triggered landslides that have blocked roads, hampering rescue efforts.
Local meteorological authorities said the region will experience rains in the coming three days, which may also affect rescue efforts.
The Yiliang county education bureau said three primary school students are among those killed in the quakes.
Zhou Guangfu, deputy chief of the bureau, said the students were attending class at the Yunluo Primary School in Jiaokui township when the first quake occurred.
Zhou said there were 15 students in the school at the time of the first quake, eight of whom were buried. Teachers and villagers rescued just five of them.
Classrooms in more than 300 high and primary schools were also damaged, Zhou said.
The Maoping Primary School in Luozehe township suffered damage to the first and second floors of one of its buildings. Classes there have been suspended.
Zhou said the bureau will inspect the county's schools before allowing classes to resume.

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