Earthquake rescue hampered as death toll rises

A huge relief effort is under way
to send vital aid such as tents and medical supplies to an earthquake disaster
zone in a remote part of western China.

Officials say 760 people died over 11,000
were injured when the 6.9 tremor hit, 243 remain missing.

 Using their bare hands and shovels, rescuers
continued Thursday to claw through the rubble of buildings that collapsed in a
powerful earthquake in Qinghai Province.

The rescue teams are facing a
number of logistical challenges.

“Freezing weather, high
altitude and thin air have all made rescue efforts difficult,” Hou Shike,
deputy head of China International Search and Rescue, told official news agency

Yushu sits at about 13,000ft making
work difficult for teams not used to the high altitude. Further logistical
problems were posed by aftershocks.
The death toll is expected to rise with hundreds more still believed to buried
under collapsed mud and wood structures. The quake, which struck the mainly
Tibetan region early Wednesday, is the deadliest in China in almost two years.

Several schools collapsed and at
least 66 pupils and 10 teachers were among the dead, Xinhua reported.

The flattened schools echoed scenes
from the quake that hit neighbouring Sichuan province two years ago, leaving
nearly 90,000 people dead.

Revelations of shoddy construction
and lax building regulation infuriated grieving parents in the aftermath of
that disaster.

About 900 people have been pulled
out alive since the 6.9-magnitude quake struck on Wednesday morning, at the
shallow depth of six miles.

Doctors who have reached the worst
affected areas in Yushu County – where 85 per cent of buildings have been
destroyed – have rigged makeshift hospitals.
 But due to a shortage of supplies
medical teams can do little more than offer injections.

The Chinese president
has called for an all-out emergency effort and some 5,000 rescuers, including
700 soldiers, have been sent to the area, which is on the Tibetan plateau.