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China rushes relief after Sichuan quake kills 188

Monday - 4/22/2013, 2:31am  ET

Rescue workers prepare to enter an area devastated by an earthquake in Gucheng village in Longmen county of southwestern China's Sichuan province, Sunday, April 21, 2013. Rescuers and relief teams struggled to rush supplies into the rural hills of China's Sichuan province Sunday after the earthquake prompted frightened survivors to spend a night in cars, tents and makeshift shelters. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

GILLIAN WONG
Associated Press

LUSHAN, China (AP) -- After dynamiting through landslide-blocked roads, Chinese relief crews hurried food, water and other supplies into the rural hills of China's Sichuan province Monday, two days after an earthquake killed at least 188 people and injured more than 11,000.

Rescuers reached the most cut-off communities in Baoxing and Lushan counties, though heavy machinery and trucks bearing supplies moved slowly along roads partly blocked by landslide debris. Repairmen hoisted ladders up against electrical poles to fix power lines.

The delivery of relief supplies, while not enough to meet all the demand, marked headway as frustrations grew among survivors.

Near an old house that had crumpled by the roadside in Lushan, about 2,000 people gathered early Monday to complain about the lack of food. A few jumped on to a motorized three-wheel cart to look for officials, and 20 minutes later a truck pulled up and distributed instant noodles. At another street corner, a truck handed out bottled water.

"We're so grateful for these donations," said Ji Yanzi, who was loading cartons of bottled water on to a three-wheeled vehicle to take to her family of 10, including aging parents. "At this point, we don't have much except a tent we made ourselves and some food we were able to pull out from our apartment."

Large parts of Lushan and other towns have been turned into makeshift encampments for people whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Saturday's quake or are too scared to stay indoors.

Saturday's quake was among the deadliest China has seen in the past three years. The China Earthquake Administration said that 188 people had died, another 25 remain missing and more than 11,000 were injured. More than 2,000 aftershocks have rattled the area since the quake, the agency said.

Sitting near chunks of concrete, bricks and a ripped orange sofa in the hard-hit Lushan village of Longmen, Luo Shiqiang told how his grandfather was just returning from feeding chickens when their house collapsed and crushed him to death.

"We lost everything in such a short time," the 20-year-old college student said on Sunday. His cousin was injured in the collapse, but other family members were spared because they were working in the fields.

The quake, which the earthquake agency measured at magnitude-7 and the U.S. Geological Survey put at 6.6., occurred farther to the south on the same fault line where a devastating 2008 quake killed more 90,000 people. Because Lushan and Baoxing were largely spared in 2008, they also had not benefited from the massive rebuilding efforts and its emphasis on earthquake safety.

Luo said he wished more had been done to make his community's buildings quake-resistant. "Maybe the country's leaders really wanted to help us, but when it comes to the lower levels the officials don't carry it out," he said.

Relief teams flew in helicopters and dynamited through landslides Sunday to reach some of the most isolated communities, where rescuers in orange overalls led sniffer dogs through piles of brick, concrete and wood debris to search for survivors.

"I was working in the field when I heard the explosions of the earthquake, and I turned around and saw my house simply flatten in front of me," said Fu Qiuyue, a 70-year-old rapeseed farmer in Longmen.

Fu sat with her husband, Ren Dehua, in a makeshift shelter of logs and a plastic sheet on a patch of grass near where a helicopter had parked to reach their community of terraced grain and vegetable fields. She said the collapse of the house had crushed eight pigs to death. "It was the scariest sound I have ever heard," she said.

As in most natural disasters, the government mobilized thousands of soldiers and others, sending excavators and other heavy machinery as well as tents, blankets and other emergency supplies. The Chinese Red Cross said it had deployed relief teams with food, water, medicine and rescue equipment to the disaster areas.

At the Lushan county seat, tents have been set up on open spaces, and volunteers doled out noodles and boxed meals to survivors from stalls and the backs of vans.

A large van with a convertible side served as a mobile bank with an ATM, military medical trucks provided X-rays for people with minor injuries, and military doctors administered basic first aid, applying iodine solution to cuts and examining bruises.

Patients with minor ailments were lying in tents in the yard of the hospital, which was wrecked by the quake, with the most severely injured patients sent to the provincial capital. With a limited water supply and buildings inaccessible, sanitation is a problem for the survivors.

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