Xi urges all-out efforts to minimize the number of dead and injured
The death toll from a magnitude-7.0 earthquake that struck Jiuzhaigou county in Sichuan province on Tuesday night rose to 19 and the tally of the injured rose to 263, including seven seriously and three in critical condition, by Wednesday evening. All-out rescue efforts were continuing.
About 60,000 tourists and migrant workers had been evacuated from the epicenter of the quake by 5 pm Wednesday. “The evacuation has been swift and efficient,” said Liu Zuoming, director of the disaster relief headquarters.
The quake struck Jiuzhaigou county in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture at 9:19 pm on Tuesday at a depth of 20 kilometers. More than 1,000 aftershocks – the strongest magnitude-4.6 – had struck by late Wednesday, according to the China Earthquake Administration.
On Tuesday night, President Xi Jinping called for all-out efforts to rapidly organize relief work and rescue the injured. Xi said authorities should check the impact of the earthquake, evacuate and settle visitors and local people, and reduce death and injuries as much as possible.
Since the earthquake took place during the peak tourist season as well as flood season, authorities should enhance meteorological early warnings and geological monitoring to guard against other disasters and try their best to protect people’s lives and property, Xi added.
Premier Li Keqiang also urged local authorities to go all out in relief and monitoring work.
At least eight of the dead were tourists at Jiuzhaigou, which has a national park known for its spectacular waterfalls and karst formations, according to the disaster relief headquarters. Two of the dead were locals and the status of nine was not yet known.
A French man, Maxence Vallon, 18, a Canadian woman and another unidentified foreigner were among the injured, according to the provincial government.
The provincial health and family planning commission put together a team to transfer the seriously injured and provided basic medical treatment and psychological assistance in places where tourists and residents have taken shelter.
Most of the injured were being treated at the county hospital, while some of the seriously wounded were transferred to hospitals in the cities of Mianyang and the provincial capital of Chengdu, according to the commission.
“Minor or moderate injuries make up the majority,” said Zeng Jun, a doctor with the Sichuan Provincial People’s Hospital who helped in the rescue.
Vallon had injuries to both legs, while the Canadian woman, who declined to be named, suffered a slight head injury. Both are being treated at Jiuzhaigou county’s public hospital.
Doctors said stone fragments were embedded in Vallon’s right leg and he needed immediate surgery to prevent infection.
“We were on open ground when a rock fell and hit my brother on the leg,” said Romain Vallon, a student in Beijing. The brothers were staying with their mother in a hotel in Jiuzhaigou when the quake struck.
The Canadian woman is expected to be discharged in two or three days, doctors said. “We have received excellent care. The rescue workers and doctors have been very helpful,” she said.
About 500 medical workers from all across the province have been providing emergency treatment.
No buildings collapsed in the quake, but some 1,680 houses were damaged, according to the provincial government.
Rescue forces including Armed Police and the PLA Ground Force were busy clearing roads and distributing relief materials, such as tents.
Also on Wednesday morning, a magnitude-6.6 earthquake struck the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, injuring 32 in Jinghe county, Bortala Mongolian autonomous prefecture. The China Earthquake Administration said the two quakes are not related and they do not mean China has entered a period of active seismic activities.
The number of earthquakes on the Chinese mainland is still within normal range, officials said.
Xinhua contributed to this story.