China quake toll mounts to 65,000 with 23,000 missing (Lead)May 26th, 2008 - 9:12 pm ICT by admin
Beijing, May 26 (Xinhua) The toll in the devastating May 12 earthquake in southwestern China rose to 65,000 Monday with 23,000 still untraced as security personnel and rescuers stretched to break open the barriers of a rapidly swelling quake-created lake to avoid flooding. The information office of the State Council said about 14.38 million quake-affected people have been evacuated.
Rescuers are preparing to raze with explosives the barrier of a swelling quake lake, which has posed a new threat to the Tangjiashan area of Beichuan county of the quake-hit Sichuan province.
Helicopters airdropped professionals and materials for the operation by 7.49 a.m. Monday near the lake formed after quake generated landslides blocked a local river.
Thousands of quake survivors have been evacuated from the area since Wednesday, officials said..
A People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officer told Xinhua that the soldiers each carried 10 kg of dynamite and planned to carry out small-scale blast to drain the swelling water.
The risks were only heightened as high winds and thunderstorms were forecast for the area Sunday and Monday and the area was hit by a strong aftershock measuring 6.4 magnitude on the Richter scale Sunday killing eight people.
The lake is now holding more than 128 million cubic meters of water and may cause devastating flooding if the barrier bursts.
Altogether 35 barrier lakes were formed by landslides after the May 12 earthquake.
DPA adds: Meanwhile, the money in a government disaster relief fund rose to 16.6 billion yuan ($2.39 billion), the government reported.
Domestic and foreign donations for aid deliveries amounted to 30.9 billion yuan, nine billion yuan of which had already been dispatched to the quake zone, the government added.
The World Health Organisation also said Monday that it had received $1.3 million in emergency funds from the United Nations to provide medical supplies and support for survivors of the earthquake, which left around 5 million people homeless.
WHO’s regional office, which is based in Manila, said the money provided by the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund would strengthen humanitarian relief programmes and ensure that critical, life-saving activities were functioning in affected areas.
“WHO will strengthen China’s power to reduce the risks of epidemic outbreaks and to treat any cases of communicable diseases that appear,” said Eric Laroche, assistant director general for WHO’s Health Action in Crises cluster.
“Damaged health facilities must start treating survivors as quickly as possible for injuries, potential diarrhoeal diseases and acute respiratory infections and psychosocial trauma,” he added.
WHO is also sending a team of experts to China to support government efforts to reconstruct health care services and support disease control efforts.
The magnitude 8.0 earthquake that struck May 12 killed more than 62,000 people in south-western China, while almost 24,000 were still missing. Premier Wen Jiabao has said he feared the death toll could exceed 80,000.
The disaster left around five million people homeless with at least 436,000 homes destroyed.