700 aftershocks, inclement weather hamper rescue
K J M VARMA
Beijing, Apr 15: Battling high altitude sickness, inclement weather and hundreds of aftershocks, rescue workers sifted through mounds of debris in Chinaís quake hit Qinghai Province as the death toll mounted to 617 today.
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was personally supervising the relief operations today and government announced that it would welcome international aid. President Hu Jintao, meanwhile, was rushing back from Brazil after cutting short his visit.
Almost 2,000 soldiers, police officers and fire-fighters joined the well prepared rescue teams looking for hundreds of missing people in the mountainous Tibetan region devastated by 7.1-magnitude quake.
Over 9,110 were injured and relief centres were being set up in different places as 95 per cent of the urban centres were destroyed. At least 774 aftershocks have been recorded in the quake zone so far, with the biggest at 6.3 magnitude, compounding problems for rescue workers.
Ren Tiesheng, deputy director of the Qinghai Provincial Seismological Bureau, warned Thursday that more aftershocks would hit the quake zone.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu told a media briefing here today that dozens of countries and international organisations had sent condolences, and some offered assistance to the quake-stricken area.
China welcomes any aid, she said answering a question.
The quake, toppled 15,000 residential buildings and forced 100,000 residents to be relocated, according to the rescue headquarters, official Xinhua reported.
The first task of the rescue workers who were using excavators, shovels or even bare hands to comb through the debris to find survivors appeared to be save the many people who remained buried under the debris of collapsed houses in the hardest-hit Gyegu Town near the epicentre, home to 100,000 people. Nearly 313 have been listed as missing.
It is located at about 4,000 meters above sea level.
More than 85 percent of houses in Gyegu, mostly made of mud brick and wood, had collapsed.
Freezing weather, high altitude and thin air have all made rescue efforts difficult,Ē said Hou Shike, deputy head of the China International Search and Rescue Team.
Some of the teamís rescuers were already feeling dizzy due to low oxygen level in the air soon after arriving at the Yushu Airport Wednesday night, Hou said.
Roads linking the airport and Gyegu were blocked by landslides triggered by the quake, which hampered rescue missions, he said.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 15 Apr 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 15 Apr 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 16 Apr 2010 00:00:00 IST
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