BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Aid workers are trekking for hours through mud and debris to assist survivors of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that triggered landslides, blocking rivers and creating massive bodies of water that could unleash more destruction in southwestern Yunnan province.
Thousands of buildings were destroyed, buried under mud and plunged underwater by the series of disasters that began with the August 3 quake. The death toll has topped 600, according to Xinhua news agency, while blocked roads and aftershocks following the region’s strongest quake in 14 years are slowing aid and recovery.
"We could not take a bus or car to go there, so we walked sometimes on the way. The mountain was shaking (from aftershocks). We had to go around some areas, waiting for the road (to be repaired). We spent five hours (walking) from Ludian county city to go to Longtoushan township," Yan Hailin, programme manager for Plan International, told Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone on Friday from Plan’s base in Yunnan province’s capital Kunming.
Yan and his colleagues spent Tuesday assessing the damage, having driven six hours from Kunming, and setting off on foot when the road was no longer passable.
"A lot of local people have no place to live, and they just use tents outside of buildings, waiting for the local government or other organisations to support them and to get food, clean water," Yan said.
Save the Children staff said the government was repairing roads so more rescuers could get into the affected areas.
"The priority is rescuing people because there are still many areas not can be accessed," Zhang Houqi, Kunming-based project officer for Save the Children, said by telephone while travelling through the worst-hit areas in Ludian county.
On Thursday, Zhang and his colleagues reached more than 300 adults and children sheltering in a school in Yinchang village.
"Their houses were either broken by the earthquake or under water by the river," he said.
World Vision staff were also trying to get to Qiaojia and Huize counties.
"All the news is on Ludian, but two other counties are inaccessible, and we will be trying to access those unreached areas as soon as possible… we think there are needs there," Meimei Leung, World Vision China’s head of humanitarian emergency affairs said from the relief teams’ base in Tianjin, near Beijing.
Here is a summary of the humanitarian response in Yunnan. If your agency is involved in emergency efforts, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plan, a child-focused NGO, is providing emergency care for children and families affected by the disasters, and is on standby to provide support for children.
Yan said Plan has met with government officials, parents, children and teachers to assess needs. On Sunday, four staff will go to Ludian with large tents, hygiene supplies and children’s art supplies to set up two spaces for children – one each in two villages in Longtoushan township.
SAVE THE CHILDREN
The NGO has distributed coats, blankets, socks and clothes for children, as well as hygiene kits, and is planning to create child-friendly spaces.
“It’s quite important to provide children a safe space,” Zhang said. “Their parents are busy with the earthquake and recovery, and distributing relief materials.”
World Vision has distributed 50 tents for families, toothpaste, toothbrushes, towels, soap and sanitary napkins for survivors living in temporary shelters, and plans to deliver cooking utensils, mosquito nets, flashlights and other supplies.
The NGO will also deliver 500 packages that include toys for children, which Leung said have proven very helpful in the aftermath of other disasters: “Children really like receiving these child-friendly kits. They’ve lost everything, and this gives them something to hold on to, something that belongs to them.”
World Vision is working with a local partner to provide counseling and to offer education, play therapy and reading time. “The whole purpose is to help children have a normal life,” Leung said, noting that early reports indicate 94 schools have been damaged.
According to UNICEF, Ludian’s per capita GDP is one-third that of Yunnan province and much lower than the national average, with an average annual income per capita of less than $1 per day.
UNICEF has been asked by the government to provide medical supplies and equipment to support the recovery of hospitals in the region.
The agency is exploring purchasing equipment for babies and young children under 5 to be able to bathe with warm water.