Quake rescue demonstrates China's strength
Some 60,000 people were evacuated on Wednesday, 24 hours after an earthquake hit Jiuzhaigou County in Sichuan Province, which has caused 19 deaths so far.
Rescuers transfer quake-affected people in quake-hit Jiuzhaigou County, southwest China's Sichuan Province, on August 9, 2017. Rescue work continues after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake strikes Jiuzhaigou, a popular tourist destination, on August 8, 2017. [Photo: Xinhua/Ge Qiangjun]
The 7.0-magnitude quake occurred at 9:19 p.m. Tuesday in the county, a popular tourist destination in the mountains on the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for all-out efforts to organize relief work and rescue the injured.
Rescue efforts, both at the government and the grassroots levels, are in full swing, demonstrating efficiency, strong resolution and human warmth.
Li Jianjun, 52, still remembers the anxiety he felt while standing in the darkness with his head bleeding.
Li is an employee of the InterContinental Resort in the quake-hit area. After his head was wounded by a stone, he rushed to an open area outside the hotel to wait for rescuers, along with crowds of people, many in pajamas or bath towels.
Medical workers who arrived at the hotel at midnight dressed their wounds.
Immediately after the quake, rescue workers, including firefighters, policemen and medical staff, rushed to the quake-hit area. Many of them had to walk dozens of kilometers as some roads to Jiuzhaigou are blocked by falling stones.
Li Dingyong, an armed policeman from neighboring Songpan County, said he had to walk 30 kilometers with 18 teammates to reach the disaster relief headquarters last night.
They discovered two dead tourists on two passenger buses on the way, he said.
The disaster relief headquarters said some 60,000 people, mostly tourists, had been evacuated as of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Local authorities are planning to set up temporary shelters to relocate affected residents.
Jiuzhaigou is part of the Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba, home to many Tibetans and people from other ethnic minority groups.
Hu Yunpeng, a tourist from Nanchong City of Sichuan, recalled that he was on a tourist bus with his family when the quake occurred. A huge rock hit the back door of the bus.
"At the moment I heard the bang, I thought our bus had exploded," he said. His wife was thrown out of the window and a child on the bus was killed on the spot.
He saw that a car in front of them was overturned and four people in it were killed.
Despite a bone fracture in his right leg, he climbed out of the bus and dragged his wife to the roadside, while rocks continued to fall from the mountains.
Six local Tibetan villagers, holding shovels and iron bars, rushed to the bus. They helped the tourists move to open ground near a hostel.
"Besides passengers on our bus, there were over 200 people staying in front of the hostel door," he recalled. "The Tibetan hostel owner asked us to use his firewood for warmth and took out some quilts for us."
Temperatures in Jiuzhaigou can be as low as 16 degrees Celsius at night.
After the earthquake, local people of different ethnic groups voluntarily offered food, water or car rides to stranded tourists and rescue workers.
Liu Zuoming, Communist Party chief of the Aba prefecture, said local authorities will roll out plans to relocate some locals in the future to reduce threats to their safety by secondary disasters.
Governments of all levels have responded quickly to the disaster.
The State Council has sent a national work team to the disaster-hit area to guide relief work.
Sichuan Province dispatched over 1,300 armed policemen, 1,108 firefighters, 55 sets of heat sensors and 30 sniffer dogs to Jiuzhaigou.
A total of 455 firefighters from Shaanxi Province have been organized on standby, and 28 rescue workers from Gansu Province have carried out rescue work.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has instructed airports to keep track of available runways and gate positions while asking airlines to help with emergency evacuation of tourists in the disaster-hit area.
The Ministry of Transport has formed a leading group to guide local transportation authorities to aid the rescue.
The China Meteorological Administration has initiated enhanced weather forecasting in the area.
China's quake response, including action capability, rescue equipment and relief materials, has made great progress during the years after the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, said Xu Qiang, a geological disaster prevention expert with the Chengdu University of Technology.
"Around 60,000 tourists have been evacuated within 24 hours and the rescue operation is very professional," said Xu.
The country's mature emergency response mechanism ensures rescue efficiency, commentator Zhu Xu told China National Radio.
For example, rescue efforts, such as medical relief and traffic control, were activated about an hour after the quake. The Jiuzhai-Huanglong Airport, the transportation hub for relief work, resumed flights shortly after the quake, he said.
"Globally speaking, they (the medical staff) are very efficient. No people got left behind, and everything is in good order," said Romain Vallon, a French national who was traveling with his brother and mother in the area.
His younger brother got wounded in the legs during the quake and received treatment at the people's hospital of Jiuzhaigou County.
Technological advances have also helped make rescue more sophisticated.
Many land detecting satellites have been arranged to monitor the disaster-hit area and satellite images will be sent to China's disaster relief, earthquake and meteorological authorities, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
A meteorological satellite developed by the corporation will also offer weather information to the quake-hit area.
China Satellite Communication Co., Ltd. has opened temporary fast channels to ensure news reporting from the disaster scene.
The land and resources department and geological institutes of Sichuan have used equipment such as drones, satellite phones and 3D laser scanners to monitor the area to prevent secondary disasters.