China mobilises defence forces as quake toll jumps to 400

Beijing :  China on Monday rushed thousands of soldiers, police and firefighters as well as eight planes to its Southwest Yunnan Province, which was devastated by a strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake that killed nearly 400 people.

The Chengdu Military Area Command has dispatched six helicopters and deployed more than 4,000 servicemen and paramilitary reserve forces to the quake zone. Two helicopters have already arrived in Yunnan and are rushing to the quake’s epicentre.

Upon arrival, they will examine the disaster situation, transport the injured and relief materials, and explore the route and landing venues for air forces. The epicentre was at Longtoushan Township, 23 km southwest of the county seat of Ludian.

Another four helicopters are expected to arrive in the quake zone at noon if meteorological conditions allow. The Air Force also sent two cargo planes from Beijing and Chengdu to transport relief personnel and materials to the quake zone this morning. A relief team composed of 100 servicemen from the Beijing Military Area Command left for the quake zone this morning, according to the PLA General Staff Headquarters.

The team is equipped with 8 search dogs and 160 sets of life detectors, and 90 per cent of the team members have quake rescue experience. In addition, the firefighting authority in Yunnan had dispatched 937 firefighters and 141 fire trucks with 17 search dogs to the quake area as of 11 a.m. today, according to the firefighting bureau under the Ministry of Public Security.

Firefighters at the scene have rescued 66 residents from debris, with 30 of them still alive, and relocated more than 1,300 people, the bureau’s figures showed. Search operations are still going on.

The massive quake left a trail of destruction with more than 12,000 houses toppled and 30,000 damaged. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is en route to the quake region to supervise disaster relief work. This is the second quake in about two years.

In September 2012, a 5.7-magnitude quake caused more than 80 deaths and injured over 800 people. In 1974, a 7.1-magnitude quake in the same place killed more than 1,400 people. President Xi Jinping has ordered authorities to give top priority to saving people’s lives, minimise casualties and guarantee a proper settlement for quake victims. He called for putting an all-out effort in relief operation and strengthening aftershock monitoring to prevent secondary disasters.

The region is not new to severe earthquakes. “In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people, and a magnitude-7.1 quake killed more than 1,400 in 1974,” the news service adds. “In September 2012, 81 people died and 821 were injured in a series of quakes in the region.”

However, heavy rain and aftershocks continue to hamper the rescue wfforts. The earthquake caused landslides that blocked many roads and rivers

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