Photo from a 163 Blog documenting the Qinghai Earthquake. WARNING: Imagery is graphic and can be very upsetting.
As we’ve all been reminded, the Himalayas are still making a mad dash for the Pacific Ocean. Most recently, this has been at the peril of residents of western China’s Qinghai province, where at least 589 people are confirmed dead and more than 10,000 injured after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Wednesday at 7:49 a.m.
Qinghai’s population is largely rural and mainly composed of herders and farmers of Tibetan descent – in fact, the exiled Dalai Lamai originally hails from here, where shoddy construction has been blamed for the extent of the death and destruction. As was the case in the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan tremor, schools are among the buildings most devastated. So far, the bodies of 56 students have been pulled from the rubble, though that number is expected to rise – multiple reports state that 70% of schools in Yushu, the main city affected by the quake, have collapsed.
While the official government line is that the “top priority is to save students,” many are questioning why there wasn’t more of a push to enhance western China’s poor infrastructure in the wake of the disaster two years ago, which killed 87,000.
Worse, some disturbing tweets that have emerged from the region that worry about foreign journalists being banned from the quake zone. Chinese blogs have allegedly reported road blocks 80km outside Yushu… though our foreign journalists are cautiously optimistic – we’ll probably find out more by tomorrow morning.
Hopefully it won’t be “Xinjiang all over again,” as one twitterer put it. Not sure “riots” and “devastating earthquake” deserve the same kind of counterproductive response from the government, especially since most of the quake’s victims aren’t even ethnically Chinese!
Meanwhile, rescue crews and charities are mobilizing and providing aid to those affected, including British agency ShelterBox, who provided support in the wake of Sichuan and said that “the biggest problem [Yushu is] facing is lack of tents.” Organzations helping with those and other shortages include the American Red Cross, who has already pledged $50,000 in aid and MercyCorps, who is currently on the ground in Qinghai. If you’re interested in helping, you can donate to the Red Cross here and to the China Earthquake Fund, who is supporting Mercy Corps, here.