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Press Release 2008/05/14 - Vigorous rescue and relief efforts are made around the clock as earthquake death toll rises to 14,866
[Released in New York at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, 14 May 2008]

2008/05/14


 

 

350 East 35th Street, New York, NY 10016    Tel: 1 (212) 655-6197    Fax: 1 (212) 220-6543

 

 

 

For Immediate Release

Press Section
May 14, 2008

 

 

Earthquake death toll rises to 14,866

Rescue and relief going around the clock

 

 Highlights
  1. An earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale hit Wenchuan County in southwest China's Sichuan Province at 2:28 p.m. local time (06:28:04 UTC) on Monday, 12 May 2008.  The epicenter of the quake was located at 31.0 degrees north latitude and 103.4 degrees east longitude. Wenchuan (population 111,800), 146 km northwest of Sichuan's capital Chengdu, hosts Wolong Nature Reserve, China's leading giant panda research center.
  2. Within 5 hours, Premier Wen Jiabao was on his way to quake-hit province and an Earthquake Disaster Relief Commanding Headquarters was established by the State Council, China's Cabinet, with Premier Wen serving as its head.
  3. President Hu Jintao has immediately made quake relief Chinese Government's top priority. 
  4. Death toll rose to 14,866 by 2:00 p.m. Wed. May 14.  Death toll may continue to rise.  No foreigners have been reported killed or injured in the earthquake.  Press Conferences on Rescue & Relief efforts are held on a daily basis by the Information Office of the State Council to keep the world informed.
  5. Disaster relief efforts are going around the clock, involving over 50,000 armed police and army troops. China has parachuted rescuers and airdropped relief goods to cut-off quake area. To disaster-hit regions, Health Ministry has dispatched 1,056 medical personnel and Civil Affairs Ministry has sent 127,000 tents, 220,000 quilts and 170,000 warm coats.
  6. Olympic torch relay has been downscaled after the devastating quake.
  7. Donations to quake-hit areas hit 125 million U.S. dollars, as of 4:00 p.m. Wed. May 14.
  8. Water quality in quake-hit areas remains unchanged, China's state grain reserves reported safe, oil companies vow to ensure oil supply and disaster-stricken areas maintain stability.
  9. Air China sends planes for stranded tourists in quake-hit Sichuan Province.
  10. China's 86 giant pandas in the Wolong National Nature Reserve and Panda Breeding Center have all survived the earthquake.

 

Rescuers are racing against time to find survivors after the strongest earthquake to hit China in 32 years jolted the country's Sichuan province, demolishing buildings and burying tens of thousands beneath the rubble. People in many other parts of China also reported tremors. The quake was felt as far away as Beijing, Shanghai, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan. The destructive earthquake unleashed an enormous amount of energy, comparable to that of 256 atomic bombs. As of 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, the cities and towns within a radium of 300 kilometers to the epicenter have experienced over 3300 aftershocks, 57 of which measuring 4 or higher on the Richter scale (39 shocks between 4.0 and 4.9, 15 shocks between 5.0 and 5.9, and 3 quakes measuring 6 or higher). Shattered roads, persistent heavy rain and landslides in Wenchuan County and the nearby area have hindered rescue efforts.

Within hours of the earthquake, President Hu Jintao ordered all-out efforts to help those affected by the quake and Premier Wen Jiabao flew to the disaster-hit area to oversee and direct the rescue work. The Chengdu Military Area Command has dispatched troops to help with disaster relief work.

The State Seismological Bureau (SSB) has sent a team of 183 specialists to Wenchuan County, and the Sichuan provincial government also sent a work group. The Tibet Autonomous Regional Seismological Bureau has ordered three experts to go to Wenchuan to offer help.

 

China is one of the countries most affected by natural disasters. Every year, more than 200 million people in China are affected by natural disasters, including floods, droughts, meteorological, seismic, geological, maritime and ecological disasters as well as forestry and grassland fires. Earthquakes, which constitute the top killer amongst the many natural disasters frequently occurring in China, have hit 22 provinces, regions and municipalities since 1949, taking a death toll of 270,000, which accounts for 54% of the deaths resulting from natural disasters.
China, with its vast land, often suffers from earthquakes. Since 1900, China has experienced nearly 800 earthquakes measuring 6.0 or higher on the Richter scale, and the earthquakes in China have killed over 550,000 people, no less than 53% of the world's earthquake death toll.

Earthquake death toll rises to 14,866
(as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, 14 May 2008)

The death toll in the massive earthquake that rocked southwest China's Sichuan Province rose to 14,866 by 2:00 p.m. Wednesday, with 64,746 people injured, 25,788 people buried, and 7,841 missing, according to the Earthquake Disaster Relief Commanding Headquarters of the State Council. More than 550,000 houses have collapsed.

Among the figure, 14,463 were dead in Sichuan Province, 280 in Gansu Province, 106 in Shaanxi Province, 14 in Chongqing Municipality, two in Henan Province and one in Yunnan Province.

Damage: All highways into Wenchuan were damaged, resulting in delayed arrival of the rescue troops. Over 2,300 base stations of China Mobile in Sichuan and nearby areas went offline, while the China Unicom network in Wenchuan broke down entirely. In Beichuan county, 80% of the buildings collapsed according to Xinhua. In the city of Shifang, the collapse of two chemical plants led to leakage of some 80 tons of liquid ammonia, with hundreds of people reported buried. In the city of Dujiangyan, south-east of the epicentre, a whole school collapsed with 900 students buried and 50 dead. The Juyuan middle school, where many teenagers were buried, is being excavated by civilians and cranes.

Telecom networks in the cities of Chengdu, Chongqing and Zhengzhou were paralyzed after the quake. People complained they were unable to complete calls on either fixed lines or cell phones.

Previously the Sichuan provincial government also reported 3.46 million damaged households.

According to the Ministry of Railways, 31 passenger trains and 149 cargo trains have been stopped en route due to the destruction of railway bridges caused by the quake.

 


Monday, 12 May 2008

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has asked for public calm and efficient organization of disaster relief work. Premier Wen headed for Wenchuan directly from central China's Henan Province where he cut short an inspection of rural areas. Arriving on Monday evening (May 12) at Dujiangyan, a city northwest of the provincial capital Chengdu, Premier Wen asked military personnel waiting in the city to enter the badly hit area as soon as possible even if they had to walk to Wenchuan. The earlier the troops arrived, the more lives they could save, he said. The premier urged local officials to make the protection of lives their priority and provide whatever they could to help the injured. Water, power supplies and telecommunications should be restored as soon as possible, Wen said, adding that dams, major bridges and railways should be repaired and maintained. Hours after the quake, the State Council, China's Cabinet, established the temporary headquarters for disaster relief comprising eight departments responsible for helping with rescue work, medical care, security, information and other tasks.

Chinese President Hu Jintao urged governments at all levels to regard earthquake rescue and relief as the top priority at a meeting on Monday night (May 12). The meeting decided to set up a disaster relief commanding headquarters with Premier Wen Jiabao as head, and Li Keqiang and Hui Liangyu, both vice premiers, as deputy heads. President Hu, as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), presided over the meeting of the Political Bureau Standing Committee of the Central Committee of the CPC. The meeting called on the army, armed police and paramilitary forces, as well as medical personnel to go to the quake-hit areas as soon as possible, and mount all-out efforts to save the injured and reduce the impact caused by the havoc.

 


Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Premier Wen pledges to save more lives when inspecting quake-hit hospital, school: He made a three-time bow to pay his respect to the bodies of the people killed by the quake laid on the school's square, saying that he was greatly saddened. Premier Wen told officials at the temporary headquarters for disaster relief in Dujiangyan that roads to Wenchuan should be recovered as soon as possible at all costs. "The road is the key for the relief work since we can only know the situation there when we can send people and we can only transport the injured out when the road is clean," Wen said. China planned to parachute troops and supplies into Wenchuan on Tuesday, but later called off the action due to unfavorable weather conditions including thunderstorms and heavy rain.

Chinese Government allocates $124 million relief fund to quake-hit areas:  China's Ministry of Finance said Tuesday afternoon (May 13) that it had allocated 860 million yuan (124.63 million U.S. dollars) for disaster relief in the quake-hit western areas. Of the total, 700 million was allocated on Monday night to Sichuan Province, where the epicenter was located, and the rest went to other affected provinces such as Gansu, Shaanxi and Yunnanand the Chongqing Municipality on Tuesday. Vice Minister of Civil Affairs Luo Pingfei told reporters that 60,600 tents have been sent to the quake-hit regions. Luo said the quake had been felt by 28 of the 32 provinces, regions and municipalities in China (except for Jilin, Helongjiang and Xinjiang).

31 British tourists returned to Chengdu Safely on Tuesday. A group of 31 British tourists encountered the earthquake on May 12 on their way back from Wolong National Nature Reserve to Chengdu, Sichuan. With the assistance of the armed police in Dujiangyan, all of them have returned to Chengdu safe and sound. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China immediately informed the British Embassy in China.

No death or injury of foreigners so far: Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not received any report of death or injury concerning foreigners. The Central Government and governments at various levels attach great importance to the safety of foreigners in China. After the earthquake, the Foreign Ministry immediately contacted the foreign Embassies and Consulates in China to learn whether there are foreign citizens injured or killed in the affected region. The Information Department of the Foreign Ministry called foreign correspondents based in Chongqing and other places to make sure they are safe and sound.

A strong aftershock measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale rocked southwest China's Sichuan Province at around 3:10 p.m. Tuesday. The aftershock was clearly felt within a radium of 200 km. Most citizens in the provincial capital Chengdu felt the quake. Experts with the China Earthquake Networks Center said strong aftershocks may still rock Wenchuan, though quakes exceeding 7.8 on the Richter scale are unlikely. The region has suffered more than 1,950 aftershocks in the 26 hours after the initial quake on Monday afternoon, including three over 6 on the Richter scale and 14 between 5 and 6. Seismological experts said Wenchuan is prone to earthquakes and several massive quakes over 7 on the Richter scale were reported in history.

Quake-hit areas maintain stability: Areas stricken by the southwest China earthquake had reported no major crimes, fires or traffic accidents as of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, indicating public order was being maintained, according to the Ministry of Public Security. The ministry has sent 1,138 firemen and 1,000 special policemen to Sichuan to help local personnel with disaster relief work. The Supreme People's Procuratorate, issued a circular on Tuesday, ordering procuratorates at all levels to crack down on crimes disrupting disaster relief work and to help maintain social stability in quake-hit regions.

Olympic torch relay downscaled after quake: Beijing Olympic organizers announced on Tuesday that the Olympic torch relay would be simplified, downscaled and open with a minute of silence Wednesday when a leg starts in the southeastern city of Ruijin, a symbolic gesture to thousands who died in a massive earthquake in southwest China. The IOC said Tuesday it was donating $1 million to help the earthquake victims. Lenovo was donating $1.4 million to earthquake relief and Coca-Cola was also donating money to the relief effort.

 


Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Chinese Politburo stresses saving lives first in quake relief: Saving lives should be taken as the top priority during the quake relief, a meeting of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee was told Wednesday. The meeting of the Political Bureau Standing Committee of the CPC Central Committee, presided over by President Hu Jintao urged more army, armed police, firemen and special policemen, as well as medical personnel be rushed to the quake-hit areas. The meeting called on various government departments to take measures to provide appropriate accommodations to survivors, ensuring that they are well fed, clad and sheltered.  The Politburo asks that attention should be paid to maintaining social stability.  It presses resumption of transportation, electricity, communication and water supply as soon as possible.

Earthquake rescuers face tough battle to save lives: Cranes and bulldozers are removing rocks and floor slabs; rescuers in orange outfits are nosing about the rubble for the slightest signs of life; groans are heard occasionally from under the ruins. The groans are regarded as good tidings two days after a 6-storey school building collapsed in Monday's earthquake and buried at least 1,000 students at Beichuan Middle School in Beichuan County of southwest China's Sichuan Province. Dozens were saved on Wednesday as rescue work was beefed up by rescuers from Sichuan, Chongqing, Shaanxi and Shenyang. Most of the newly found survivors were injured and needed further treatment in hospital. Up to 5,000 people were said to be dead in the mountainous county with about 20,000 people, about 160 kilometers northeast of the epicenter Wenchuan. The quake toppled 80 percent of the houses in the county seat and many survivors have to shelter in tents. Heavy rain on Tuesday has brought down temperatures and left the citizens in dire needs of quilts, mattresses and sheets.

Relief goods airdropped to quake-hit regions: As shattered and landslide-blocked roads have made it impossible to timely deliver disaster relief materials to the epicenter and its neighboring areas by motor vehicles, China has to use aerotransports and helicopters to airdrop goods. Around 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, an aerotransport of China's air force airdropped for the first time 5 tonnes of disaster relief materials, including mineral water, milk, instant noodles, into Mianzhu City in quake-stricken Sichuan Province. 7 PLA (People's Liberation Army) helicopters had delivered 12.8 tonnes of disaster relief goods to Wenchuan and its neighboring counties as of 1 p.m. on Wednesday. The goods included satellite communication systems, medicine and quilts. The first two helicopters airdropped food, drinking water and medicine to Yingxiu Township of Wenchuan County at Wednesday noon. The helicopters also carried 47 injured people to hospitals.  An army unit equipped with mobile phones was helicoptered into Wenchuan, which has been cut off, the military sources said. China planned to parachute troops and supplies into Wenchuan on Tuesday but cancelled the operation because of thunderstorms and heavy rain.

Rescue work starts at the quake's epicenter with helicopters airlifting injured:

On Wednesday afternoon, the first batch of 47 injured were evacuated from Wenchuan county, epicenter of the deadly earthquake, to Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu by helicopter. They are to receive medical treatment in the Huaxi Hospital, the largest hospital in Chengdu. The second, larger batch arrived at Chengdu on Wednesday evening. By 8 a.m. Wednesday, more than 800 soldiers had arrived at the county seat of Wenchuan and started rescue operation, and some 600 people, including soldiers and medical workers, are being sent to Yingxiu town of Wenchuan.  

A temporary dock has been set up at the Zipingpu reservoir in Dujiangyan, about 100 kilometers from the epicenter. "The voyage from the dock to the Yingxiu takes 50 minutes, four hours faster than by land, whose route is hampered by landslides," said a reporter with the China Central Television. About a dozen ships are in operation, each carrying 12 people. Rescuers have to cover the 60-km distance from Yingxiu to the county seat on foot after the voyage. Three Xinhua News Agency reporters arrived at Yingxiu by soldiers' boat, and another got there by helicopter. They were the first journalists on the scene.

China parachutes 100 soldiers to cut-off quake area: The first batch of 100 elite soldiers, selected from the airborne special force, were parachuted on Wednesday afternoon into an area near the epicenter of Monday's earthquake in southwest China. The parachutists landed on 12:20 p.m. safely in the cut-off Maoxian county, northeast of the epicenter Wenchuan. Death toll caused by Monday's major quake in Maoxian (population 105,000) rose to 95 as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, according to the parachutists, along with 836 injured and 92 missing. Of the injured, 56 were in critical conditions, and there was a lack of food and tetanus medicines. Two of the county's hydropower stations were severely damaged during the quake, and dam breaks were feared, the parachutists said. Local government and the paratroopers are now engaging in evacuation of the county residents.

China hydropower engineering police force joins in quake relief:  The Hydro-power Corps of the Chinese People's Armed Police (PAP), has deployed four task forces in quake-hit Sichuan province. The four teams, comprising 662 soldiers, are searching for survivors and repairing roads in Sifang, Wenchuan and Dujiangyan. In Shifang county, two task forces with 360 soldiers have rescued 16 survivors and found 50 bodies from the collapsed buildings of two middle schools. The third task force, comprising of 150 servicemen, are racing against time to repair the damaged road from Lixian county to Wenchuan county (the epicenter). The fourth task force, with 152 memberss, are trying to open a new road from Dujiangyan city to Wenchuan. The old road has been blocked at several points by landslides. (The hydropower corps is a special division of the PAP that are engaged in the development of hydropower stations and have rich engineering experiences.)

Air China sends planes for stranded tourists in quake-hit Sichuan: The Chongqing branch of Air China on Wednesday sent four Boeing 737s to pick up stranded tourists in Jiuzhaigou, a tourist attraction in quake-hit Sichuan Province, the company said. Most of the stranded tourists were from Chengdu, where the airport was damaged in Monday's massive earthquake. The tourists would be sent home by bus from Chongqing after their arrival at the Chongqing airport. The number of stranded tourists in Jiuzhaigou was not known yet. However, the Sichuan provincial emergency management office said on Tuesday that more than 2,000 tourists, including 15 Britons, were stranded in Aba Prefecture. The tourism bureau of Shenzhen city said that two Chinese-Americans and one Thai tourist were also missing. Air China designated an airplane exclusively for transporting rescuers and stranded tourists. A total of 18 foreign tourists were still out of reach in Sichuan on Wednesday.

Donations to quake-hit areas hit 877 million yuan: Donations in both cash and goods to the quake-hit areas had risen to 877 million yuan (125 million U.S. dollars) as of 4 p.m. on Wednesday, according to China's Ministry of Civil Affairs. The Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) has received public donations of 311 million yuan and the China Charity Federation has received about 120 million yuan. Local governments have donated 380 million yuan to the affected areas including provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu. Large and medium-sized Chinese companies and social institutions had contributed 62.13 million yuan. 16 state-owned companies had donated a total of 113 million yuan (16 million U.S. dollars) to help quake victims. Chinese athletes and sports administrators have donated a total of 5 million yuan.

Water quality in quake-hit areas remain unchanged: Samples collected so far indicate water quality in quake-hit areas have remained basically unchanged and are eligible for drink by Wednesday, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said here in Beijing.

China's state grain reserves reported safe after quake: State grain reserves in quake-hit regions of China remain intact despite some damage to granaries, said the China Grain Reserves Corporation on Wednesday. The state-owned company, which manages the reserves, said no losses of grain and no casualties were reported at its depots in Sichuan and Gansu provinces and Chongqing Municipality. China had 150 million to 200 million tons of grains in reserve, Premier Wen Jiabao said in March 2008.

Chinese oil giants vow to ensure oil supply in quake-hit areas: Two Chinese oil giants, China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) and Sinopec on Wednesday said they were stepping up efforts to guarantee the oil supplies to quake-stricken areas in southwestern Sichuan Province.  Sinopec had made emergency deliveries of 20,000 tons of diesel and 10,000 tons of petrol to its Sichuan and Chongqing branches. It has ordered its refineries in Lanzhou, Jilin and Urumqi to raise output by up to 10 percent, and its gas stations in affected areas to open around the clock where possible. Actively coordinating with Sinopec, CNPC announced earlier an emergency move to allocate 100,000 tons of refined oil to ensure supplies to disaster-hit regions.

 


The Ministry of Civil Affairs of China has authorized the Red Cross Society of China and China Charity Federation to receive donations for quake-hit areas.

How to Donate to Red Cross China

The Red Cross Society of China (RCSC, http://www.redcross.org.cn/) called for donations to help victims in the earthquake-striken areas in southwest China's Sichuan Province. The commodities in urgent need such as tents, cotton-padded quilts, food, drinking water are not so easily be transported to the disaster-hit areas due to transportation difficulties, according to the RCSC. Donations in cash is preferred at this stage, said an official with the RCSC.

Donators can donate cash to the RCSC through the following bank accounts:

  •  for RMB account, the address is Dongsi Nan Sub-Branch, Beijing Branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the account number is 0200001009014413252; Swift Code: ICBKCNBJBJM
  •  for USD or foreign currency account, the address is Jiuxianqiao Sub-Branch, Beijing Branch of China CITIC Bank and the account number is 7112111482600000209; Swift Code: CIBKCNBJ100

The RCSC also opened a hotline +8610-6513-9999 and +8610-6402-7620 for enquiries and consultations during the daytime (Beijing Time).

China Charity Federation hotlines: (8610) 66083260, 66083264, 66083194

 

How to Donate to CCTF

China Children and Teenagers' Fund (CCTF) decided on Tuesday to grant two million yuan (about 285,000 US dollars) together with 50,000 yuan of donation from its employees to help purchasing tents, quilts, food, water and drugs for disaster-hit areas in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The organization's spokesperson said this is to answer the call from the State Council to "mobilize people from all walks of life" to help people in disaster-hit areas to get through the difficulties.

He said people could make donations by calling the two hotline numbers of +8610-6510-3485 and +8610-6510-3491, or logging on the organization's website at www.cctf.org.cn

 


Released at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, 14 May 2008 (Eastern Daylight Time in the U.S.)

 

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