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China Rushes Relief to Quake Area

Lushan, China — Sitting near chunks of concrete, bricks and a ripped orange sofa, Luo Shiqiang told how his grandfather was just returning from feeding chickens when their house collapsed and crushed him to death in a powerful earthquake in southwestern China.

“We lost everything in such a short time,” the 20-year-old college student said. His cousin was injured in the collapse, but other family members were spared because they were working in the fields in 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 seismic fault 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 rebuilding efforts, with no reinforcements or new evacuation procedures introduced in their remote communities.

Luo said he wished more had been done to make his community’s buildings quake-resistant. “Maybe the country’s leaders really wanted to help us, but when it comes to the lower levels the officials don’t carry it out,” he said.

Relief teams flew in helicopters and dynamited through landslides yesterday 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.

Many residents complained that although emergency teams were quick to carry away bodies and search for survivors, they had so far done little to distribute aid. “No water, no shelter,” read a hand-written sign held up by children beside a road in Longmen.

“I was working in the field when I heard the explosions of the earthquake, and I turned around and saw my house simply flatten in front of me,” said Fu Qiuyue, a 70-year-old rapeseed farmer in Longmen.

Fu sat with her husband, Ren Dehua, in a makeshift shelter of logs and a plastic sheet on a patch of grass near where a helicopter had parked to reach their community of terraced grain and vegetable fields. She said the collapse of the house had crushed eight pigs to death.

“It was the scariest sound I have ever heard,” she said.

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.