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August 7, 2014

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Earthquake death toll rises to 589 as 2 women rescued from rubble

THE death toll from the Yunnan earthquake jumped to nearly 600 yesterday, authorities said.

Despite the spike, some slivers of hope remained, among them the rescue of two women, one aged 80.

Rescue efforts in the southwestern province, where the magnitude 6.5 quake struck on Sunday afternoon, were heavily hampered by traffic delays and landslides blocking roads.

At least 589 people had been confirmed killed as of yesterday morning, with another nine missing, the civil affairs ministry said on its website.

Officials attribute the sharp rise in reported casualties to the inaccessibility and remoteness of villages. Most of the latest casualties were reported in Ludian and Qiaojia counties. Nine people were still listed as missing in Qiaojia.

The ministry said 2,401 people had been injured and 230,000 evacuated, while more than 80,000 homes had fully or partially collapsed.

In a tale of good news, 80-year-old Ding Changmei was pulled out of debris yesterday afternoon in Yinping Village, about 30 kilometers from the epicenter township of Longtoushan.

Her five family members were all injured and unable to rescue her from the rubble of their mud house.

Doctors said she is safe.

In a separate incident in Yinping, a 50-year-old woman was pulled out alive from the debris 67 hours after the quake.

Liao Tengcui was conscious at the time, but had suffered “serious injuries” and was unable to move her left leg, Xinhua news agency reported.

Rescuers have rushed her to hospital for treatment.

Liao’s daughter, who was unhurt in the earthquake but was unable to find any help because of cut communication lines, stayed by her side and encouraged her to wait for rescue, he said.

Two others — a 76-year-old man and an 88-year-old woman — were also pulled out alive on Tuesday night.

Distraught mothers sought to comfort each other over the deaths of their children.

“I lost my 7-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son,” said Yan Anqiao, 30.

“I’m not sure if I can ever have a real home again without my children.”

Sheng Taimei had gone out while her 11-year-old daughter, who had stayed at home to do housework, was killed.

“She was very warm, full of emotion,” she said. “I am lost without her.”

Search efforts in Longtoushan were being concentrated in a 600-meter swathe of hillside in the township’s central area.

Residents said school dormitories collapsed in the disaster, echoing the 2008 Sichuan quake in which more than 80,000 people, thousands of them children who died when their schools crumbled.

More than 18,000 professional rescuers are now in the disaster zone, most of them military and police.

But huge tailbacks have developed, mainly consisting of cars driven by members of the public bringing in supplies or offering help. Authorities called for them to stay away.

“In order to ensure the best chances of rescuing survivors, we advise ... volunteers against entering the quake zone by themselves,” Xinhua quoted Pang Chenmin, head of the ministry’s disaster relief bureau, as saying.


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