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China: Ministry officials aid Tibet quake relief

October 9, 2008

China Daily (Peoples Republic of China)
October 8, 2008

The central government is sending officials to Tibet as part of quake
relief, following a tremor that left 10 confirmed dead and another 34
injured, the State Disaster Relief Commission said Tuesday.

The latest quake relief team, which left Beijing for the disaster
area Tuesday morning, consists of officials from the Ministry of
Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Finance.

Local authorities Tuesday confirmed the latest death toll from the
6.6-magnitude temblor, which hit Damxung county of Lhasa, the capital
of the Tibet autonomous region, on Monday.

The latest quake fatality came from a high school in Shannan
prefecture, the region's vice-chairman, Gong Puguang, said at a press
conference.

The school in Nagarze county was evacuating its students during the
tremor when a stampede broke out, killing one teenager and injuring
another 15, Gong said.

Tibet's regional government reportedly decided to close all schools
in Lhasa Tuesday due to safety concerns.

The temblor struck Damxung at 4:30 pm on Monday. Xinhua News Agency
earlier reported that at least 30 were killed in the quake, but
revised the figure later.

The quake killed nine and injured 19 others at its epicenter, hitting
mostly women, children and the elderly, the news agency reported.

All 19 villagers injured in the quake have reportedly been
hospitalized in Lhasa.

Most of the men were away mowing and storing forage grass for the
winter, said Tsering Samdrup, a resident of Yangyi, the worst-hit
village, where nine died, 18 were injured and 171 homes were destroyed.

"I can't believe it," said Nyima, a Tibetan herder who lost her
2-year-old daughter. "Now our family of nine is reduced to eight."

Tenzin Chodrak said he was putting extra hay into the sheepfold when
his home collapsed. "My brother's son died and my mother was injured," he said.

Lamas have also been called in to perform rituals for the dead before
their "celestial burial", a traditional Tibetan funeral practice.

No one else was buried in the Yangyi village debris, rescue headquarters said.

Shortly after the quake-damaged road to Yangyi was restored, injured
villagers were taken to two hospitals in downtown Lhasa.

"Most of them suffered trauma or bone fractures," said Tashi Namgyal,
president of the People's Hospital, the main hospital in Lhasa where
seven injured villagers were being treated.

The other 12 injured were admitted to the General Hospital of Tibet's
Area Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

PLA troops stationed in Lhasa were reportedly among the first to
arrive after the quake. They helped people out of the ruins, pulled
out dead bodies and visited every family to check on survivors and
gather information on the missing.

Similarly, the regional government is carrying out an emergency
response plan and at least 700 rescuers using life detection devices
are at the quake zone.

Troops and rescue dogs are also searching the rubble for those who
may be trapped, while health workers have been deployed to examine
villagers and prevent epidemics from breaking out in the area.

Tents, food and water are now being trucked in to the villages hit by
the earthquake, after rescuers opened a main road Tuesday. Food,
drinking water and quilt supplies for victims are currently adequate,
Xinhua reported.

With at least 191 houses collapsed from the quake, rescuers started
building makeshift homes for residents Tuesday morning.

"We have finished putting up 280 tents to accommodate all 171
families whose houses collapsed in Yangyi village," said Yang Lin,
Damxung's deputy head.

Almost every home in Gedar town, which stands 4,560 m above sea
level, suffered cracks from the quake. Ensuring that the town's 4,000
people are kept warm was a priority, said an official with the
county's Civil Affairs Bureau.

The Tibet Division of the Chinese People's Armed Police Force (PAPF)
has also sent a detachment of 300 to Damxung county to set up tents
to ensure that all of the homeless villagers are sheltered as soon as
possible, officials said.

In addition, the PAPF headquarters have reportedly ordered its units
in Tibet to closely monitor the situation in the region and to spare
no efforts to rescue affected people.

Another 20 residential buildings were destroyed in neighboring Nyemo
county, but no casualties were reported.

The Sichuan-Tibet highway was also reopened Tuesday after three days
of closure due to falling rocks.

"The highway was not damaged by the earthquake, but we are ready for
any potential accidents," said Xiang Mingqing, an officer with the
People's Armed Police exercising traffic control.

The major Qinghai-Tibet railway and Lhasa's airport have maintained
normal operations following the quake, while historic structures such
as the Potala Palace have reportedly not been affected.

Still, the regional earthquake-monitoring network said it had
observed 1,211 aftershocks as of 10 am Tuesday, including one above
6.0 on the Richter scale.
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