Rescuers hike to cut-off towns

Updated: 2013-04-22 07:03

By Huang Zhiling in Lushan, Sichuan and Jiang Xueqing in Beijing (China Daily)

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At 6:30 am on Sunday, Yang Renyi, president of the No 37 Hospital of the People's Liberation Army, led a group of more than 30 medical professionals toward Baoxing, a county in Sichuan province's city Ya'an, which was damaged by the magnitude-7 earthquake on Saturday.

Before the disaster, it used to take an hour and a half to drive from Lushan county, the epicenter of the earthquake, to Baoxing. But by the time they set off, the road connecting the two counties was blocked by a landslide, leaving them only one choice - to go on foot.

Six hours later, they arrived at Lingguan, a town in Baoxing, and discovered that all the houses and buildings were damaged. More than 1,000 people were injured.

Rescue workers cleared the road from Lushan to Lingguan in the afternoon. At 4:07 pm, four Lingguan residents with bone injuries were sent by ambulance to the No 37 Hospital of the PLA in Ya'an.

By 5 pm on Sunday, the hospital had received 157 injured people. One person died from a severe brain injury soon after he arrived. Apart from the 157 people, another 32 injured were transferred to other hospitals in Chengdu and Chongqing.

Also on Sunday, leaders of the disaster relief command office in Lushan sent 200 rescue workers, divided into five groups, to Baoxing and four townships in Lushan in the afternoon.

They arranged for four helicopters to send 40 rescue workers to Baoxing, but strong winds forced two of the aircraft to return, and the other two had to cancel their flight. The helicopters couldn't be sent in the evening because of rain in the mountains, said Zheng Jingchen, president of the General Hospital of Armed Police Forces.

"Injured people are scattered throughout Baoxing. They are not pinned under a collapsed building as many people imagine. We have to search for them. Their injuries will become more serious if they do not receive timely treatment," Zheng said.

Of the five groups of rescuers, one group returned from Longmen in Lushan without finding anyone who needed to be evacuated, and the others had not returned by 6 pm.

Of the 22,000 residents of Longmen, more than 20 people died and 380 were injured in the earthquake. The township's health center received more than 500 patients per day after the disaster, even though it has a capacity for only 100 people a day at most.

With people living in tents after the earthquake, a growing number of patients went to the hospital on Sunday to be treated for cold, but also gastroenteritis and allergic dermatitis, said Wang Zejun, 44, the hospital's director.

Many hospitals outside the hard-hit city Ya'an were assisting in treating the injured. West China Hospital in Chengdu, for example, had received 213 injured people and performed 49 operations by 6 pm on Sunday.

Jiang Xianfei from West China Hospital arrived at Lushan on Saturday to help the residents.

"About half of the 5-km road from Longmen to Baosheng town was destroyed and covered by fallen stones. I half-climbed to Baosheng with my colleagues and the armed police. Finally, we found four people who were seriously wounded and got them out in an army helicopter," he said.