Rescuers have struggled to rush supplies into the rural hills of China’s Sichuan province after an earthquake left many dead and more than 6700 injured and caused frightened survivors to spent a night in cars, tents and makeshift shelters.
The death toll was earlier announced to be 150, but as rescue efforts continue, the death toll has now risen to 179.
In nearby Ya’an town, where aftershocks could be felt nearly 20 hours after the quake, residents sat in groups outside convenience stores watching the news on television sets. Fourteen-year-old Wang Xing sat with her family on chairs by the roadside in the cool night air, a large blanket on her lap.
Wang and her relatives said they planned to spend the night in their cars. “We don’t feel safe sleeping at home tonight,” said Wang, a student. She said the quake left tears on the walls of her family’s house. “It was very scary when it happened. I ran out of my bed and out of the house. I didn’t even have my shoes on.”
Along the main roads leading to the worst-hit county of Lushan, ambulances, fire engines and military trucks piled high with supplies waited in long lines, some turning back to try other routes when roads were impassable.
As in most natural disasters, the government mobilized thousands of soldiers and others – 7,000 people by Saturday afternoon – sending excavators and other heavy machinery as well as tents, blankets and other emergency supplies. Two soldiers died after the vehicle that they and more than a dozen others were in slipped off the road and rolled down a cliff, state media reported.
Premier Li Keqiang flew to Ya’an to direct rescue efforts, and he and President Xi Jinping ordered officials and rescuers to make saving people the top priority, Xinhua said.
The Chinese Red Cross said it had deployed relief teams with supplies of food, water, medicine and rescue equipment to the disaster areas.