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The 7.1-magnitude quake, which struck the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu Wednesday morning, has left at least 1,706 dead, 256 missing and 12,128 injured, of which 1,424 are in severe condition, as of 10 a.m. Sunday.
Update: According to Shanghai Daily, the death toll has climbed to 1,944 with 216 people still missing.
Prime Minister Wen Jiabao spent Friday in the region, comforting survivors of this past week’s devastating earthquake in a prominent display of concern by the country’s leadership. Wen had canceled a trip to Indonesia to race to Yushu. “No matter whether you are Tibetans or Hans, you are all in one family,” Wen said during a visit to an orphanage in Yushu Prefecture.
Photo by China News Service
President Hu Jintao arrived in Qinghai province Sunday, cutting short his trip to Brazil, to meet with those injured or displaced by last week’s devastating earthquake. In a bid to raise morale, Hu said that “saving lives remains the first priority. We treasure every life and at the same time, we should ensure victims regain a normal life.” Hu also promised locals new homes and schools, writing in chalk on the blackboard of a temporary classroom set up in a tent, “there will be new schools! There will be new homes!”
Due to the region’s history of ethnic tensions, most recently in 2008 in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, with riots that pitted local residents against ethnic Han migrants, sporadic unrest and crackdowns have occurred across Tibetan areas of the country. At a news conference on Friday in Beijing, government experts seemed at pains to stress that the distribution of relief supplies had been unaffected by ethnic considerations, and that supplies had been handed out solely on the basis of need.
Rescuers were hindered not just by the cold, but also by bouts of altitude sickness. Relief workers and People’s Liberation Army soldiers streamed to the scene by bus and aircraft, and Xinhua news agency said 2,000 soldiers, police officers and firefighters had arrived by midday Thursday.The police chief of Chengduo, Da Ji, said that until outside help began pouring in Thursday afternoon most rescue workers were monks from nearby monasteries. Miao Chonggang, deputy head of the China Earthquake Administration said currently more than 15,000 rescuers, including over 11,000 from the People’s Liberation Army and armed police, 2,800 firefighters and special police forces, and 1,500 earthquake and mine accident rescuers, are still searching for quake survivors in Yushu.
Conditions remain dire, with the rescue teams themselves facing a shortage of shelter, food and no running water or electricity, as well as being forced to deal with dropping temperatures. According to Miao, rescuers have saved 17,000 trapped people and a total of 6,870 people have been pulled out from under the rubble of collapsed buildings, among whom 6,110 survived.
Thousands of people are living outdoors, as few buildings escaped damage. While it is as yet unclear what role construction quality played in collapses in Yushu, 90 percent of the buildings were built with wood and mud.
Qinghai Province has received 586 million yuan (85.8 million U.S. dollars) in donations The total donations as of 4:00 p.m. Sunday included 405 million yuan in cash and 181 million yuan worth of goods and materials. Donated goods and materials included 525 tonnes of food, 80 tonnes of drinking water, 33 tonnes of medicines, 68,075 cotton-padded coats and quilts, and 27,424 tents.