Ice cold nights for the earthquake survivors

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two weeks after the earthquake in China’s mountainous Qinghai Province, residents are still forced to spend nights outside, many of them sleeping directly on the ground with little bedding. The earthquake, in one of western China’s poorest regions, killed 2200 people and injured 12,000. Hundreds of others are missing. Rescue teams and relief efforts are hampered by thin air of 60% oxygen density, which is resulting in altitude sickness. There are also transport difficulties to the remote region.

ACT member Amity Foundation, coordinating with Chinese authorities, is continuing to distribute emergency relief, including quilts, food and water to help people survive in some of the worst-hit areas. The first delivery of relief materials has arrived in the township of Gyegu, the epicenter of the quake. On hearing the news of the delivery, residents came from different places and gathered at the distribution points. Among them were a number of Tibetan women with children on their back.

The people of the remote Yushu county continue to be accommodated in one of four designated shelter areas – a stadium, a forested area, a horse-racing track and an open area outside town – or living in the open air beside the remains of their houses. People live in emergency shelters they constructed using salvaged materials. Most families have received a little basic food and water assistance. The villagers have to walk three km to fetch water since the water supplies have been damaged.

Electric supply is cut
Lack of electricity continues to be a problem and Amity is planning to request support for solar-powered systems as part of the crisis phase response, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable households, schools and hospitals.

The Chinese government has mounted a strong relief operation, with a focus on search and rescue with the army, police and local people. But they too are hindered by the distances to deliver aid quickly.

Others bringing assistance include the Chinese Red Cross, local non-governmental organisations and private companies, and their assistance is also important to fill the gaps, explains He Wen.

He Wen said the people of the area were enduring temperatures as low as 17°C, and had little fuel or quilts for warmth. “It’s very, very cold, so people are just wearing heavy coats... we need quilts".

Before the earthquake Amity was well-known in the region, working with communities on bio-gas and solar energy projects for cooking and lighting.