Beijing: The death toll in the powerful earthquake that hit China's Sichuan province climbed to nearly 200 on Sunday with over 10,000 injured in the disaster, as rescue operations were carried out on a war footing. The Lushan County which was hit by the 7-magnitude quake on Saturday experienced 1165 after shocks some measuring over 5-magnitude making the rescue operations more difficult, official media in Beijing reported.
About 90 people have been rescued from the debris of the collapsed buildings, while 600 people have been evacuated from the worst-hit areas of the quake so far. The catastrophic disaster has claimed 195 lives with about 10,500 people injured, state-run CCTV reported. The death toll was expected to climb as many people were still buried under the debris. On Sunday morning, an earthquake measuring 5.0-magnitude jolted China's Yellow Sea at 7:21 am, according to the China Earthquake Networks Centre. The epicenter was monitored at a depth of 10 kms.
Ya'an City, which was worst-hit in Saturday's quake registered 164 deaths. The quake has affected about 1.5 million people in the Lushan county. The relief efforts were being coordinated personally by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who arrived at the quake-hit areas on Saturday. Li said the focus of the rescuers is not to waste time and saving the people buried under the debris.
At the epicenter, Lushan County of Ya'an City, Li visited temporary settlements, hospitals, tents and monitored the disaster situation, even climbing on a heap of ruin to see the magnitude of the destruction. Li offered his condolences to the victims and the survivors, and guided the rescue and relief work on site.
"We once underwent catastrophes and have experience in dealing with them. We have quite a fine emergency response system. As long as we unite as one and conduct rescue work scientifically, we are able to minimise the losses and overcome the disaster," Li was quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency as saying. As the electricity supply had not yet been resumed, Li had to hold a meeting late Saturday night with flashlights in a tent after seeing the disaster situation.
Li asked local officials to check every house and make the utmost effort to save lives so long as there is one gleam of hope, deploy capable medical personnel to treat and cure the injured, and transfer seriously injured people outside in time so as to lower the mortality rate and disability rate.
Li allocated 20,000 more tents and 800 sets of mobile houses to the disaster area, and asked the railway and transportation departments to deliver them as soon as possible. In his meetings with people in Sichuan, Li told them not to be depressed by the disaster. "The current most urgent issue is grasping the first 24 hours after the quake's occurrence, the golden time for saving lives, to take scientific rescue measures and save peoples' lives," Li said. "Life is the most important thing and the top priority is saving lives," he said.
No minute or even second should be delayed during the "golden rescue period" in the first 72 hours after the quake, he said. Li also ordered the guarantee of accommodation, food and safe water for residents in the quake zone as well as measures against any epidemic situation. He called for efforts to prevent further tragedies caused by aftershocks and geological disasters such as landslides.
Public awareness of self-protection should also be promoted by government departments, Li said. The epicenter of the quake was at a depth of 13 kms. Ya'an has a population of 1.53 million and is known as the hometown of the giant panda. It is about 140 kilometres away from the provincial capital Chengdu City.