Update: The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore and Al-Jazeera’s Melissa K. Chan have said foreign journalists have been banned from quake zone because it is too dangerous. Moore also says that Chinese blogs have reported road blocks 80km outside of Yushu. For photographs (although very distressing) of the aftermath, click here.
Yesterday a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Yushu, Qinghai province, killing over 500 and injuring around 10,000. Hundreds remain trapped, and according to the Yushu Red Cross, 70% of local schools have collapsed. In the nearby township of Jiegu, 85% of buildings were destroyed. A local spokesperson told Xinhua:
The streets in Jiegu are thronged with panic, full of injured people, with many of them bleeding from their injuries. (…) The biggest problem now is that we lack tents, medical equipment, medicine and medical workers.
The government has dispatched emergency personnel, over 3,000 paramilitary police and disaster response specialists to Yushu county, but infrastructure is damaging the relief work. According to reports from AP and The Guardian, the nearest airport is damaged, the road to Yushu has been blocked by a landslide, and several transmission stations are out of action. Rescue teams have also said they lacked heavy lifting equipment, instead relying on their bare hands to clear rubble, and one army police officer told The Guardian he and his team had no medical equipment.
A lingering thought is how far Wednesday’s quake will be similar to the Wenchuan earthquake of 2008, during which 87,000 died and China came under intense fire for shoddily built schools and restricted media reporting. So far, it has been reported that 56 students in Yushu have died, with tens upon tens remaining trapped. Evan Osnos cites a Xinhua report in which a teacher at Yushu Primary School said: “Morning sessions had not begun when the quake happened. Some pupils ran out of the dorm alive, and those who had not escaped in time were buried.”
Given Yushu’s population density being higher than Wenchuan’s, it is hoped there will be fewer casualties. Indeed, drawing parallels between the two at this stage is largely speculative, as news trickles through and relief efforts continue.
Interestingly, there does seem to be a more open approach to media coverage of the tragedy. Reports have cited Qinghai Propaganda Department head Jidi Majia calling on the media “to be responsible, to strengthen the role of guiding public opinion, strengthen political consciousness in propaganda work. (…) We must be ready to accommodate media from outside the province, and let everyone see the spirit of the Qinghai Province people, see that we are not afraid of difficulties.”
However, searches for the topic on the Baidu post bar initially resulted in the following message: “Sorry, according to relevant laws, regulations and policies, this bar [discussion] is temporarily not open.” According to the WSJ, a subsequent Twitter discussion soon led to searches for Qinghai on the post bar producing results.