China Rattled

A colossal earthquake quavered China at around 14: 28 local time on Monday, killing 8553 people in South-western province of Sichuan alone. Many more are feared dead in other parts of Central China.

Nine hundred school children are said to be trapped inside a school in Sichuan, as the Red land shivered as it was hit by a 7.8 Richter magnitude quake. As the earthquake hit the country in the middle of the day, school children became the worst victims.

CNN reported that parents have been hovering around shambled institution buildings in search of their kids

China’s Seismological Bureau said the earthquake had affected more than half the country’s provinces and municipalities.

The trembles were felt even in Pakistan, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

The epicentre of the quake is believed to be Wenchuan County, ninety-two kilometers away from Chengdu, Sichuan’s provincial capital. Chinese authorities are yet to reach the county that has a population of more than a lakh.

About fifty kilometers from the epicenter, Beichuan saw the highest mortality rate. This Mianyang municipal area county estimated about three thousand deaths and reported collapse of 80 per cent of its buildings. Number of wounded have crossed the ten thousand mark.

In Shifang, another city of Sichuan, hundreds of workers are still buried under two chemical plants that manufacture ammonia. Authorities believe 80 tons of ammonia might have leaked out.

Amid chaos on the broken streets, and Olympics games just three months away, Beijing took strong measures. After a meeting with the Communist Party of China’s Politburo, Premier Hu Jintao ordered Prime Minister Web Jiabao to visit the regions affected and take command of the rescue operations himself.

On his way to Sichuan, Jiabao addressed the state media Xinhua, “My fellow Chinese, facing such a severe disaster, we need calm, confidence, courage and efficient organization. I believe we can certainly overcome the disaster with the public and the military working together under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the government.”

While till now China has not appealed for International aid, the rescue operation is in full swing. BBC reported that the Chinese Red Cross has already delivered hundreds of tents and thousands of blankets in the affected area.

China was last hit by an earthquake in 2003 with a magnitude of 6.8 Richter scale, killing seventy-four people. This is the highest Richter scale quake, even more than the one that hit the nation in 1976, and killed almost two and half lakh people. One can only hope that, this time casualties would be as minimum as possible.

As the communist China does not allow coverage by foreign media, the reports of the casualties and the scenario on the ground, are only being heard and seen through the state controlled Xinhua news agency. In the past, it has been accused of tempering with the actual data. Just four years ago, in 2004, it reduced the number of SARS victims, when China with rest of Asia was encountering an epidemic.

Baan Ki Moon, General Secretary of United Nation, in a press conference, has urged Chinese agencies to do whatever they can to enhance the rescue operations and allow international aid to fly in the Red state.

Neighboring Japan has already offered to help.

This is the second natural disaster to jolt Asia, in the past few days. As Burma strives to return to normalcy and China focuses on the rescue mission, the weather department has predicted heavy rain this season. Tough days for Asia are not over yet.

Parakh Chouhan

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