GANSU, CHINA: The death toll resulting from China’s recent earthquake has tragically climbed to 131, accompanied by nearly 1,000 reported injuries, as rescue operations persist in the challenging conditions of sub-freezing temperatures.
The seismic event, registering a magnitude of 6.2, struck around 11:59 pm local time (1559 GMT) on Monday in Jishishan County (积石山县), situated near the border of Gansu and Qinghai provinces.
State media reports reveal that over 150,000 homes were either destroyed or damaged as a consequence of the earthquake’s destructive force.
The tremor, characterized by its strength and shallow depth, prompted an immediate and urgent response from rescue teams.
According to state broadcaster CCTV, citing information from the provincial earthquake relief headquarters, rescue workers swiftly mobilized to clear debris, working tirelessly to navigate the challenging conditions exacerbated by the harsh weather.
The aftermath of the earthquake has left a trail of extensive damage, marked by collapsed houses that forced residents to evacuate into the streets in search of safety, as highlighted by the state news agency Xinhua.
Compounding the challenges faced by the affected region, the initial earthquake was followed by several strong aftershocks.
These subsequent seismic events triggered mudslides and landslides, causing further havoc and damaging critical infrastructure such as power lines.
Rescue efforts intensify amidst frigid conditions after deadly earthquake hits Gansu and Qinghai
On Wednesday (20 Dec) morning, authorities reported a grim update on the earthquake’s impact in Gansu, revealing an official death toll of 131 with 782 injured. In Qinghai, 18 are dead, and 198 are injured.
The situation is exacerbated by a persistent cold wave across China’s northwest, where temperatures as low as -16°C are impeding rescue efforts.
Despite the challenging conditions, a dedicated team of responders, including 1,500 firefighters, 1,500 police officers, 1,000 soldiers, and approximately 400 medics, persists in extracting individuals from the rubble and providing medical care.
Notably, 78 people have been rescued in Gansu, but concerns linger for 20 missing individuals in Minhe County, where a mudslide has left many buildings partially buried in brown silt.
Search and rescue operations, along with ongoing efforts to resettle affected residents, are documented in state media footage capturing bulldozers removing thick mud.
However, the frigid temperatures persist, discouraging many residents from returning home. Instead, they gather around fires in open spaces for warmth.
The Gansu Provincial Seismological Bureau warns of potential magnitude-5 aftershocks in the days ahead, considering the characteristics of the initial quake, historical seismic activity, and other factors.
Li Haibing, an expert from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, attributes the relatively high casualties to the shallow nature of the quake, causing more intense shaking and destruction despite its not-so-large magnitude.
Additional factors include the quake’s predominantly vertical movement, resulting in violent shaking, lower building quality in the economically challenged region, and the unfortunate timing of the event during the night when most people were at home, according to Li.
Rescue operations in full swing
On Tuesday (19 Dec), rescue operations were in full swing following the earthquake near Gansu’s border with Qinghai, with Chinese President Xi Jinping urging “all-out efforts” to prioritize search, relief work, and the safety of survivors and their belongings.
The initial earthquake, initially reported as magnitude 5.9 by the US Geological Survey, had its epicentre in Gansu.
Subsequent smaller aftershocks followed, with Xinhua reporting the quake as magnitude 6.2, felt as far as Xi’an in northern Shaanxi province, approximately 570km away.
The impact disrupted power and water supplies in local villages.
Emergency vehicles, depicted by CCTV, hurried towards affected areas along snow-lined highways.
Rescue workers, seen in overalls, received instructions and navigated through debris using torchlights. Social media videos showed fallen ceilings and debris, emphasizing the quake’s aftermath.
In response to the earthquake, officials initiated an emergency response, dispatching rescue teams to the affected region.
Provincial leaders were en route, according to Xinhua, underscoring the swift and coordinated efforts to address the unfolding crisis.
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