Relief teams working at quake's epicenter

YUNNAN, China (BP) -- Some remote communities in southwest China still have not received relief supplies, three days after a 6.1 earthquake killed nearly 600 people and destroyed 80,000 homes.

One Baptist Global Response-trained relief team working in the area, reported Aug. 5 that two villages they managed to reach had received no relief supplies, including clean water, even though they were near the road. "The situation of other mountain villages is more serious, but we have not been able to get there," the team leader reported.

Efforts to reach the most isolated communities are being hampered by road collapses and landslides, as well as a steady stream of civilians trying to bring supplies into the disaster zone, said Pat Melancon, Baptist Global Response managing director of disaster response.

"It is not unusual in disaster response for well-meaning untrained volunteers to become a burden to the local communities already struggling to get back on their feet," Melancon said. "That is why BGR trains national partners to respond in a self-supporting fashion, so they are an asset during this difficult time, not a burden."

Chinese authorities have urged untrained volunteers to stay away from the quake zone, according to news reports. Many civilians have walked or hitchhiked to the area. Some drove their own vehicles into the worst-hit areas, further clogging already congested roads.

The BGR-trained teams are working in the epicenter of the earthquake, Melancon said. In outlying areas that still have not received any assistance, water continues to be a practical and urgent need, as well as tents, food and clothing. BGR teams are assessing survival needs related to water, sanitation, shelter, food and health issues, as well as helping people with supplies they bring with them.

The death toll jumped by nearly 200 on Aug. 6 as rescuers began searching previously unreachable mountain villages. The count of houses destroyed has about doubled.

Rescuers freed one woman from a pile of rubble where she had been trapped for almost three days, but hopes that others will be found alive are waning, according to news reports. Residents of some communities reported school dormitories had collapsed.

An estimated 230,000 people are living in evacuation centers.


Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response, which is posting updates about this crisis at www.twitter.com/GoBGR. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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