Tibet suffers devastating ripple effects
Updated: 2015-04-27 07:48
By Li Yang(China Daily)
20 Chinese killed, thousands affected; massive rescue operation underway
Twenty Chinese people were killed in the Tibet autonomous region as result of shock waves related to a magnitude-8.1 earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday. At least 55 others in Tibet were injured. Four people were missing, as of noon on Sunday. The death toll in Nepal has risen to at least 2,200, according to media reports.
In Tibet, some places remained inaccessible on Sunday, as roads were blocked by landslides. More than 200,000 residents in the southern areas of the region, near the quake zone, were affected. About 7,000 people from Nyalam county and 5,000 from Gyirong county, two border areas near Nepal, have been evacuated, authorities said.
The quake toppled 1,191 houses and one temple, damaged roads and cut off telecommunications in the two counties. Various degrees of damage were recorded in several neighboring counties in Xigaze and Ngari prefectures. Nearly 6,000 houses and 54 temples suffered damage.
More than 10 aftershocks above magnitude-3 shook Xigaze area as of Sunday noon, with the strongest one measured at magnitude-7.
The government of Tibet held an emergency video conference on Saturday night to coordinate rescue efforts. Transportation has been a major obstacle, complicated by bad weather.
The road connecting Xigaze and Nyalam county, and the road between Nyalam and Zham, a China-Nepal pass about 37 kilometers from Nyalam, were clogged by landslides.
Chen Quanguo, Party chief of Tibet, ordered the evacuation of people in the quake-hit regions in a move to avoid deaths and injuries in secondary disasters that can accompany aftershocks.
The Tibet autonomous region government sent 21,000 tents, 23,000 cotton-padded coats, medicines, bottled water and food for the quake-hit regions, and dispatched dozens of experts on geology and civil engineering to the affected areas to strengthen advance warning capability and avoid further loss of life.
The power supply to Gyirong was cut and remained out on Sunday afternoon. By Sunday evening, power had been restored to parts of Nyalam county. Running water was not available.
Rain and snow were expected to fall in the quake-hit areas in Tibet on Sunday and Monday, making road repair and rescue efforts more difficult.
An effort to prevent the spread of disease is underway, local public health authorities told Xinhua News Agency on Sunday.
"The priority is to protect the drinking water sources," said Sogdoi, head of Xigaze health bureau.
Medical supplies are adequate and the injured have been treated in accessible areas, Sogdoi said.
About 600 local border guards are currently involved in rescue operations in Nyalam and Gyirong counties. Rescuers from the People's Liberation Army are moving to the worst hit areas in the two counties, carrying necessities on their shoulders.
"Aftershocks are what we worry most about at the moment; there is nowhere to hide," Gyanga Tseten, detachment head of the Xigaze fire brigade, told Xinhua at midday on Sunday. He is leading a task force of 30 to Zham.
According to Li Dong, deputy Party chief of Nyalam county, who is directing the rescue effort in Zham, it will take about 10 days to reopen the blocked road connecting the community to the outside world. Local armed police sent some tents, drinking water and food to local residents, and helped set up nine sites to accommodate 3,500 people.
Li told Xinhua that the water and food, if distributed according to a strict quota in Zham, the nearest community to Nepal, can last about three to five days, but the situation there may be much worse than expected.
About 5,000 tents, 30,000 quilts, 30,000 cotton-padded overcoats, 15,000 folding beds and 15,000 sleeping bags were en route from four Ministry of Civil Affairs warehouses in Lhasa, Xining, Golmud and Wuhan, authorities said. The Red Cross Society of China donated 1 million yuan ($166,000) to Tibet for disaster relief.
The central government set aside a 30 million yuan special fund on Sunday to help Tibet repair its damaged infrastructure.
Da Qiong and Palden Nyima contributed to this story.