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Food, Drinking Water, Cold-proof Goods Badly Needed in China's Quake Zone

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Food, drinking water, and cold-proof tents, quilts and clothes are in short supply in the remote, mountainous Chinese town flattened by a devastating earthquake earlier this week, local officials said Saturday.

At least 1,339 people died after the earthquake struck the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, Qinghai Province, Wednesday. About 11,849 people were injured, with 1,297 of them in a serious condition. Many are believed buried under piles of debris.

Impoverished Yushu, home to 100,000 people, sits 4,000 meters above sea level. Nighttime temperatures here can easily drop to freezing.

Geng Yang, provincial civil affairs chief, told a press briefing Saturday a lack of relief supplies is still the biggest challenge. He said more than 20,000 charcoal stoves are on there way to the quake zone to allow residents whose homes have been destroyed to cook food and stay warm.

On Friday, two days after the devastation, Xinhua's media van was the first to drive into a small village called Zhongda, some 60 kilometers from Gyegu town, the seat of the prefecture. Landslide rendered the mud road leading into Zhongda almost impossible.

Villagers told Xinhua as roads were blocked, 5,000 people were trapped in this flattened village with no access to relief goods.

"Now the big problem is that we do not have enough food. And we have to crowd into a few tents because relief tents can not arrive here," said Drapa, a villager of Zhongda.

Over the past three days, more than 10,000 soldiers, police, medical workers and volunteers were mobilized nationwide to join the rescue operations. Thousands were pulled out from the rubble, but many of the survivors had to rough it in the open air due to the lack of shelter and relief supplies.

National civil affairs authorities have prepared 41,540 tents, 159,240 cotton coats, 188,210 quilts, 100,000 portions of field food and 185 tonnes of food, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said Friday.

About 39,000 tents, 65,000 coats and 77,430 quilts have arrived, while others are on the way.

Getting to Yushu, about 800 km from provincial capital Xining, is difficult. Few planes can land at Yushu's small airport and sandstorms sometimes stop the flow of trucks coming from Xining.

Nearly 7,000 tents, 6,516 coats, 512 tons of food, 12 tons of medicine and 30 tons of fuel are expected to reach Yushu on Saturday.

Geng said authorities are "doing their best" to meet the needs of the quake's victims.

(Xinhua News Agency April 18, 2010)

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