Jiegu, China Rescuers probed the rubble for sounds or movement today in a rush to find anyone buried alive more than 48 hours after an earthquake hit western China, killing at least 760 people. Many survivors shivered through a second night outdoors as they waited for tents to arrive in the remote, mountainous Tibetan corner.
People with broken arms or legs cried in pain as medical teams could offer little more than injections. A doctor at the Qinghai provincial hospital, where the severely injured were being flown, said she had no idea how many were being treated because there was no time to count them all.
Stunned survivors wandered the dusty streets of Jiegu, where relief workers estimated 70 percent to 90 percent of the low-slung town of wood-and-mud housing had collapsed. Hundreds gathered to sleep in a plaza around a 50-foot-tall statue of the mythical Tibetan King Gesar, wrapped in blankets taken from homes shattered by Wednesday morning’s quakes.
“There’s nothing to eat. We’ve just been drinking water,” said Zhaxi Zuoma, a 32-year-old camped with thousands of others on a rocky field. They asked a reporter to bring them food the next day.
Temperatures dipped to near freezing overnight, forcing people to sleep in winter coats huddled under blankets, but today was sunny and those who had spent the night in tents emerged to warm themselves outdoors.
The official Xinhua News Agency said 760 people had died, 243 people were missing, and 11,477 were injured, 1,174 severely. The strongest of the quakes measured magnitude 6.9 by the U.S. Geological Survey and 7.1 by China’s earthquake administration.
Rescue vehicles snaked along the 12-hour drive from the provincial capital into the mountainous region, which still trembled with aftershocks. The altitude averages about 13,000 feet, leaving some rescuers breathless and ill. Even the sniffer dogs were affected, Miao Chonggang, deputy director for emergency response under the China Earthquake Administration, told reporters in Beijing.
China Central Television reported that rescuers and equipment were steadily arriving in Yushu to join a third day of search efforts, including more than 50 sets of high-tech equipment to help probe for signs of life under the debris. The equipment includes small cameras and microphones attached to poles that can be snaked into crevices. Motion and heat detectors were also being used. Workers expected that by Saturday around 40,000 tents would be in place, enough to accommodate all survivors, the report said.