Flood slows quake rescue in SW China

Record rainfall since late Monday has ravaged a remote mountainous region in southwest China that was damaged by earthquakes last week, triggering floods that cut off roads and forced thousands of quake refugees to flee temporary shelters.

The government of Yiliang County, Yunnan Province, has sent rescuers to help evacuate more than 2,000 people, a government spokesman said. Messages seeking help came in as early as dawn on Tuesday.

The flood has affected the lives of 100,000 people in the quake zone and injured 63. By late Tuesday, 13 remained hospitalized, the spokesman added.

Rain started to fall in Yiliang on Monday night. The accumulated rainfall reached 100 mm in most areas — 162 mm in the worst-hit town — in just a few hours.

The county’s headquarters for flood control and drought relief said the rainfall was the largest in local meteorological history. It has damaged drinking water supply pipelining and an alternative water source.

Landslide and mud-rock flows triggered by the rain also slowed disaster relief work in Yiliang, where multiple earthquakes — with the strongest measured 5.7 magnitude — have claimed 81 lives since Friday.

Authorities said they are sending 4,700 folded beds, more than 2,000 raincoats and 2,000 tents into the quake zone, where thousands of refugees still struggle on in temporary shelters. A team of more than 700 medical workers was also dispatched to the worst-hit areas.

Four days after the quakes, traffic to rural sectors of the county remained blocked and telecommunications disconnected, a situation only aggravated by the rain.

A bridge in front of the county’s hospital was submerged by river flooding on Tuesday morning.

Fu Qirong, a nursing supervisor in a hospital, said the flood water gushed into the facility gate at midnight, and water on the ground floor was waist deep.

“The hospital allowed some 100 earthquake victims camping on the square in front of the hospital to enter the building, as the flooding occurred,” she said.

The five-story hospital is now crowded with patients huddling in corridors.

Disaster relief officials said nearly all camping sites were soaked with rainwater.

At Luobinghui Square in the county seat, Li Zhangyin, a victim from Baoping Village, said although the tents are soaked, the settlement site is already much safer than outside.


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