China rushes relief after Sichuan quake kills 186

LUSHAN, China (AP) — Luo Shiqiang sat near chunks of concrete, bricks and a ripped orange sofa and told how his grandfather was just returning from feeding chickens when their house collapsed and crushed him to death in this weekend’s powerful earthquake in southwestern China.

“We lost everything in such a short time,” the 20-year-old college student said Sunday. He said his cousin also was injured in the collapse, but that other members of his family were spared because they were out working in the fields of hard-hit Longmen village in Lushan county.

Saturday’s earthquake in Sichuan province killed at least 186 people, injured more than 11,000 and left nearly two dozen missing, mostly in the rural communities around Ya’an city, along the same fault line where a devastating quake to the north killed more than 90,000 people in Sichuan and neighboring areas five years ago in one of China’s worst natural disasters.

The Lushan and Baoxing counties hardest-hit on Saturday had escaped the worst of the damage in the 2008 quake, and residents there said they benefited little from the region’s rebuilding after the disaster, with no special reinforcements made or new evacuation procedures introduced in their remote communities.

Relief teams flew in helicopters and dynamited through landslides Sunday to reach some of the most isolated communities, where rescuers in orange overalls led sniffer dogs through piles of brick, concrete and wood debris to search for survivors.

The quake — measured by China’s earthquake administration at magnitude 7.0 and by the U.S. Geological Survey at 6.6 — struck shortly after 8 a.m. on Saturday. Tens of thousands of people moved into tents or cars, unable to return home or too afraid to go back as aftershocks continued to jolt the region.

The quake killed at least 186 people, left 21 missing and injured 11,393, the official Xinhua News Agency quoted the provincial emergency command center as saying.

As in most natural disasters, the government mobilized thousands of soldiers and others, sending excavators and other heavy machinery as well as tents, blankets and other emergency supplies. Two soldiers died after their vehicle slid off a road and rolled down a cliff, state media reported.

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