China Quake Workers Face High Altitude, Low Temperatures

China quake

An ethnic Tibetan speaks to his sister on the phone amid the rubble of his collapsed house in the earthquake-hit Gyegu town in Yushu County, Qinghai province. Nearly 1,500 people have been killed after a 6.9 magnitude quake hit Yushu county. Photo by Reuters/Alfred Jin, courtesy www.alertnet.org

A week after a deadly earthquake struck the region of Yushu in China, CRS’ local partners continue to treat the wounded and are now distributing food. Staff from Jinde Charities and the Xi’an Catholic Social Service Center arrived in the quake zone on April 16 and immediately went to the two major camps where thousands of survivors are now living.

Because so many homes were destroyed, the aid team initially slept in cars overnight, braving below-freezing temperatures. On their first night, a PLA troop who had four quilts to share between 20 soldiers gave one quilt to two Jinde sisters to use.

The team, which includes Catholic sisters and medical personnel, has pitched tents in the camps and are offering medical help and counseling services to survivors. They also visited a local orphanage and offered help to traumatized orphans who lost their parents in the earthquake.

Though many roads in the region have been destroyed or are blocked by landslides, Father John Ren and other Jinde staff organized the delivery of food supplies, including 20 tons of flour and 2.4 tons of cooking oil, earlier this week. After their team made a 22-hour journey through snow and rain, the food arrived. Together with the Xi’an CSSC and local volunteers, Jinde distributed the relief goods to 775 families—more than 3000 people—in Saima camp Wednesday morning, April 21.

The quake zone is located over 12,000 feet above sea level. The high altitude, thin air, freezing temperatures and lack of electricity are hampering relief efforts. Some of the rescue workers have started to develop high-altitude sickness: they are purple-lipped and very short of breath.

China earthquake

Sister Pu Junjing of Jinde Charities, a CRS partner, tends to a man wounded during the Yushu earthquake. Photo courtesy of: Mary Wu/Jinde Charities

Reported by Laura Sheahen, CRS regional communications officer for Asia

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