Concern for students in the Qinghai earthquake


Collapsed building in Qinghai (Zhang Hongshuan / Xinhua)

According to Xinhua, the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Qinghai Province this morning has resulted in 400 deaths and 10,000 injuries.

One area of particular concern is for the children, who would have been starting their school day when the quake hit at 7:49 am. Collapsed schools became a focus of major controversy after the Wenchuan Earthquake of 2008.

This afternoon, China National Radio ran a commentary piece by Wang Jian (王健) which cited a Red Cross official who said that 70% of the schools in Yushu, the autonomous region where the quake occurred, had collapsed.

The piece, translated below, is representative of the current state of media reports: bits and pieces of information mixed with speculation and emotion:

Expert Says that Yushu Will Once Again Prove the Fortitude of the Chinese People


At 7:49 am Beijing time, April 14, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu in Qinghai Province, at a depth of about 33 km. Following the earthquakes, aftershocks measuring 4.8, 4.3, 3.8, and 6.3 struck in the same region. Comprehensive relief efforts have been launched. Reportedly, the earthquake occurred at the seat of the prefecture’s government, in the town of Gyegu, and 90% of the homes in the area have collapsed. Because of the earthquake, mobile telecom signals are unstable in the area. Wang Jian, special observer to the Voice of China, made the following assessment:

This is my final commentary of the day, and in this last moment, I would like to talk a bit about the earthquake in Yushu, Qinghai. Beginning with the news of the earthquake this morning, we have been on tenterhooks, unable to relax. The initial report of 23 deaths jumped to 67, and from 67 to 300, from 300 to 400, and this is hard for our minds to grasp.

Right now I am worried about another issue: what will the disaster victims eat this evening, how will they escape the cold, and how will they sleep? I said earlier this morning that the northern part of the country has been unusually cold lately, and I found that the weather for the Yushu area will be between -3 to 9 degrees Celsius. And on top of that -3 temperature, there are 6-7 gauge winds. I think tonight will be very cold. At this time, we do not have enough tents to shield the victims from the cold, and we do not have enough blankets to warm them. This is a critical part of the relief effort. Just now I saw that the Ministry of Civil Affairs has sent 5,000 tents, and the Civil Affairs Department of the Qinghai government has sent another 5,000. There are also 50,000 cotton overcoats and 50,000 cotton blankets on the way. But this is far from enough, and the rescue agencies must work even faster.

In addition, the head of the Yushu Autonomous Prefecture Red Cross said that 70% of the schools in Yushu had collapsed. Urgent! Urgent! Urgent! Save the children! The earthquake occurred at 7:49 this morning. We know that students usually start class after 7:30, so students may have already been in class at schools with an earlier schedule, and they would have been self-studying at schools that started later. So we are extremely worried about the number of students that have been buried.

Additionally, we are also worried about the injured. One characteristic of the Yushu earthquake is that it took place in a region where most of the houses are structures of earth and wood, whose earthquake resistance is relatively poor. Once an earthquake strikes, they are liable to collapse. But the death toll is usually less than when cement buildings collapse; the number of injured will be larger. So at present, the disaster region must arrange for hospitals and emergency rescue units to rescue the injured and work to treat them.

In a few weeks it will be the second anniversary of the Wenchuan Earthquake. I believe that having experienced the pain of the Wenchuan Earthquake, the Chinese people are brave, determined, and unshakable! We believe that Yushu will be even more proof of the fortitude of the Chinese people!

Update: Reports are circulating that media from outside the province have been barred from doing on-the-ground reporting; the Shanghai Morning Post and Jiefang Daily have apparently received notice.

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