Chinese Villagers Still Desperate For Aid Four Days After Earthquake

on April 24 2013 1:19 AM
China earthquake grave
A man dodges the blast after lighting firecrackers Wednesday, April 24, 2013, in front of the tomb of his friend's father, who died during Saturday's earthquake in Lushan county, Sichuan, China. Reuters

 

As relief materials pile up at major rescue centers in quake-hit areas of Sichuan province, China, villagers are complaining they have been forgotten by the government.

"It's been four days, four days. I haven't seen any government official bother to ask us how we have been coping," Chen Zhongfen, 66, from Shengli village in Lushan county, told the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong.

"I haven't got anything yet, and we've heard that the aid has all gone to central areas," said Chen.

Lushan was the epicenter of Saturday's 6.6 magnitude earthquake, which has claimed 193 lives, with 23 people missing and more than 14,000 injured. The 2008 earthquake in the same region claimed some 87,000 lives.

As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, 4,001 aftershocks had been recorded, the China Earthquake Administration told Xinhua. There were 103 aftershocks above magnitude 3.0, including four between magnitudes 5.0 and 5.9, 21 between magnitudes 4.0 and 4.9, and 78 between magnitudes 3.0 and 3.9, the administration said.

Chen was among more than 2,000 people in Shengli struggling to cope with the aftermath as rain began to fall. They desperately need shelter and food. But four days into the disaster, villagers like Chen say they have been left out of disaster relief efforts.

Communist Party General Secretary and President Xi Jinping chaired a special meeting of the party's Politburo Standing Committee Tuesday on earthquake relief, at which he vowed to keep searching for the missing, even though the 72-hour window that represented their best chance of survival has passed. The party pledged to ensure that everyone in the afflicted zone had "food to eat, clothes to wear, clean water to drink, temporary places to stay and medicines to use."

But in Shengli, more than 350 villagers had to share nine tents and 100 bottles of water, the Morning Post reports. They said the few tents they had were becoming useless after two days of heavy rain. Many villagers said they were running out of food and only had corn soup.

"I can endure all this, but what about the pregnant women and the elderly in the village?" said He Xiaobing.

He, a 42-year-old farmer, had to move his family and all the belongings he could salvage from his house into a homemade tent crammed with about 20 people.

A fight broke out among 50 villagers in Taiping township who scrambled for a few boxes of water and instant noodles handed out by rescue workers. Police were called in to disperse them. Villagers asked the local authorities why some people in Lushan city had gotten more than enough relief supplies while many rural people like them remained hungry and homeless.

Wang Dong , Taiping's party chief, urged villagers to stay calm, saying "a lot of supplies will be coming soon, once the clogged roads are cleared." He said most of the resources were concentrated in Lushan, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Taiping.

Official media such as the state-run Xinhua news agency have been making the best of relief efforts, playing up heroic rescue operations in Lushan county and Longmen township, especially after Premier Li Keqiang's visit on Sunday. Xinhua also reported Tuesday that medical workers took care of a newborn boy in a tent serving as a temporary hospital in Taiping.

Yang Hao, a farmer in Shengli village, said: "We are the forgotten ones; nobody cares about us. I wish Premier Li had come to our town, then we wouldn't have today's problems."

Meanwhile, the disaster is unlikely to do lasting damage to the national economy, analysts said.

"From what we have learnt from the region's 2008 quake, economic impacts will be limited. Losses in local areas should not be blown up to a disaster for the whole economy," Wang Xiaoguang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Shanghai Metals Market site.

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