Earthquake Devastates China

Rescue crews rush to Sichuan province after a deadly quake

Apr 22, 2013 | By Stephanie Kraus with TIME and AP reporting
FENG LI—GETTY IMAGES

On Monday, rescue teams rushed to reach isolated parts of China’s Sichuan province after a deadly earthquake struck the area on April 20. The quake struck at 8:02 as Ren Keming, 19, was preparing for his school sports day. “I was in the middle of getting changed when the room started to rock, things began to shake all over the place,” he said. Ren did as many others did and raced to the ground floor to join his teachers in the gymnasium, where the floor was wide and flat.

Saturday’s quake killed more than 188 people and injured more than 11,000. Nearly two-dozen people are still missing. Authorities say Sichuan has experienced more than 2,200 aftershocks since the quake struck. China's Earthquake Administration measured the event at a magnitude 7.0 while the U.S. Geological Survey said it was a magnitude 6.6 quake. Many of the hardest hit areas were rural farming areas.

In Longmen village, authorities said nearly all the buildings had been destroyed during the frightening minute-long shake. Farmer Fu Qiuyue, 70, was working in a field when she heard explosions.  “I turned around and saw my house simply flattening in front of me,” she said. “It was the scariest sound I have ever heard.”

An All-Too Familiar Heartbreak

Lushan is one of the hardest-hit areas. It is home to 1.5 million people. Saturday’s earthquake happened along the same fault line where a deadly quake struck in May 2008. That magnitude 7.9 quake killed more than 90,000 people.

Saturday morning, many people were at home, sleeping or having breakfast when disaster struck. Aftershocks continued to shack the region and tens of thousands of people moved into tents or cars, unable to return home or too afraid to go back.

Chinese Premier Le Keqiang arrived in Ya'an on Saturday afternoon. He visited those injured in hospitals and tents. “The current priority is to save lives,” he said.

Helping Hands

Earthquake survivors took shelter under homemade tents in Ya'an, China.
FENG LI—GETTY IMAGES
Earthquake survivors took shelter under homemade tents in Ya'an, China.

Rain on the first night after the quake slowed rescue work. Boulders from landslides blocked roads and made it difficult for relief teams to reach victims. The crews used dynamite to blast through the rubble-blocked roads. Many rescuers hiked through the rural hills to reach victims and led sniffer dogs to search for survivors.

Authorities in Ya’an said more than 2,000 rescuers were dispatched to the disaster area, bringing with them 200 tents and 1,400 quilts. The Chinese Red Cross deployed relief teams with food, water, medicine and rescue equipment to the disaster areas.  People packed cars with supplies and headed to the disaster area. Anticipating traffic congestion that could hamper emergency teams, the government issued a notice on Monday asking volunteers, tourists and others not trained as rescuers to stay out of the disaster area.

In Lushan, quake survivors formed long lines in front of trucks and stalls to receive instant noodles, bottled water and other supplies. About 2,000 people gathered at a truck handing out bottled water on Monday. Ji Yanzi loaded a vehicle with cartons to take to her family of 10. “We're so grateful for these donations, ” she said.