MEICHUAN: Rescuers battled through dusty rubble on Tuesday to try to reach victims of two shallow earthquakes in China that killed at least 92 people, as traumatized survivors struggled with the devastation left behind.
State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) showed images of soldiers digging through earth and sand to reach simple houses buried under landslides in the northwestern province of Gansu.
Seriously injured patients wrapped in blankets were put into helicopters heading to the provincial capital Lanzhou, which has the nearest major hospital.
The twin earthquakes that struck on Monday morning had magnitudes of 5.9 and 5.6 according to the United States (US) Geological Survey, but were only 10 kilometers (six miles) deep, so that much of the energy released was transmitted to the surface, where it wreaked havoc.
The city government of Dingxi, which includes the worst-affected counties, said on its verified social media account that 92 people had been killed, with hundreds more injured.
Initial investigations showed at least 5,785 houses had collapsed and another 73,000 were severely damaged, China’s official Xinhua news agency said.
Around 6,000 rescuers, among them armed police, firefighters, militiamen and local government staff had been sent to the region, it added.
Hundreds of aftershocks were recorded in the disaster zone, an area of dusty, jagged mountains.
CCTV showed makeshift tent relief centers being set up, with water, instant noodles and blankets being handed out.
Throughout the night, scores of rescue vehicles headed south from Lanzhou to the quake area.
Many rescue workers had travelled from across the country and refused to rest during the night as they raced to find survivors.
“We know the road is more dangerous when it is dark, but we cannot waste a second,” said a relief worker who had flown from Beijing with 12 volunteers.
His group joined convoys of army vehicles and ambulances on the highway to Min county, which includes Meichuan.
Any storms could hamper the rescue efforts, bringing with them the threat of further landslides.