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Natural Disasters

Rescue crews struggle to reach quake victims in China

China's earthquake has left more than 200 people dead or missing. Rescuers are struggling to get supplies to the hardest-hit areas owing to damaged roads and traffic. Nearly 12,000 people were injured in the quake.

Rescuers in China were struggling on Sunday to reach survivors from a 6.6 magnitude quake in the southwestern province of Sichuan. In addition to damaged roads and traffic, the region has been plagued by more than 1,300 aftershocks.

The quake struck in Lushan county, near the city of Ya'an, on Saturday morning. Since then, the death and missing toll has risen to above 200, with nearly 1,000 others suffering from serious injuries.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs reported that at least 184 were killed and more than 11,800 were injured. Some 24 people are considered missing.

Frustrated rescue efforts

On Sunday, rescue teams faced difficulties getting supplies to the hardest-hit areas.

"Supplies have had difficulty getting into the region because of the traffic jams. Most of our supplies are still on the way," said Kevin Xia of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Rescue efforts in China follow earthquake

Teams struggled to reach the area owing to narrow, damaged roads, landslides and traffic. Rescue crews and armed police fought their way up narrow mountain paths covered in debris in order to reach the isolated areas of Sichuan province, such as Baoxing, one of the areas hardest hit by the quake.

Relief workers expressed frustration over the lack of progress on Sunday.

"We're in a hurry. There are people that need help and we have supplies in the back (of the car)," a man from the Shandong Province Earthquake Emergency Response Team told the Reuters news agency.

Xinhua news agency reported that 18,000 troops were on hand to help with the efforts.

In Lushan, meanwhile, hospital staff worked in open-air tents near the main hospital, tending to hundreds of the injured.

Many hope for government support

Premier Li Keqiang responded to the crisis by flying to the region on Saturday, organizing relief efforts and talking to victims and their families. He tried to allay their fears over the financial costs of the disaster.

"Treat and heal your wounds with peace of mind," Xinhua news agency quoted Li as telling patients at a hospital. "The government will take care of all the costs for those severely wounded."

Many of the earthquake victims were already poor and are now facing homelessness.

Cao Bangying, 36, whose family had set up mattresses and makeshift cots under a dump truck, told the Reuters news agency that her house had been destroyed and that her only hope was government aid.

"Being without a home while having a child of this age is difficult," Cao said. "We can only rely on the government to help us."

Many in the region were still in the process of rebuilding after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that killed 70,000. Saturday’s tremor, though milder in comparison, has added a new layer of hardship to residents’ lives.

tm/slk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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