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Better housing, emergency response help minimize earthquake damage

Updated: May 26,2021 09:19    Xinhua

XINING — In less than three days following the 7.4 magnitude earthquake in Northwest China's Qinghai province, the task force sent by the Ministry of Emergency Management said the rescue work is almost complete, and relief work is underway.

The province on May 25 opened a hotline so that affected residents can call to report their losses and difficulties that need addressing.

Power and water supplies have resumed at makeshift shelters, and all elementary and high schools in Maduo county resumed classes from May 24.

The earthquake, which jolted Maduo county in the Golog Tibetan autonomous prefecture at 2:04 am on May 22, left 18 people slightly injured and disrupted the lives of over 32,000 residents from 26 townships in Golog and the Yushu Tibetan autonomous prefecture.

The figures are in contrast to 11 years ago, when a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Yushu, flattening the plateau town of Gyegu and killing more than 2,600 people.

In addition to the fact that the Golog earthquake occurred in sparsely populated pastoral areas, improved housing conditions — an outcome of local poverty alleviation efforts — very probably minimized the casualties and asset losses.

As of 3 pm on May 24, 893 houses were damaged in the epicenter of Huanghe township, with no collapses. At an altitude of 4,300 meters, the township is home to over 3,000 residents.

"Better housing has demonstrated the achievement of targeted poverty alleviation efforts," said Tian Caixiu, head of the poverty alleviation and development bureau of Maduo county.

Tian said the county had over 1,700 registered impoverished households as of 2015, and the houses of herders were mostly clay and wood structures.

Between 2016 and 2017, more than 1,500 poor households moved to new homes as part of China's relocation efforts for poverty alleviation. The new brick and concrete houses can withstand an 8-magnitude earthquake.

The government poured 585 million yuan ($91.3 million) into the infrastructure of the relocation projects. The infrastructure included hardened roads, public toilets, power supplies, and community service centers, Tian said.

According to Dotar, Party chief of Huanghe township, apart from safer houses, the timely emergency response also helped reduce personnel and asset losses.

Merely 16 minutes after the earthquake, the provincial government activated a second-level emergency response for a major earthquake disaster.

The transport authorities launched a crisis plan to ensure emergency traffic to the quake-hit area ran smoothly. Power supply personnel mobilized to repair damaged power lines, and firefighters rushed to the scene for the rescue immediately.

You Wenbin, a local armed police officer, said more than 180 armed police helped rescue a stranded resident and three vehicles. They also inspected more than 60 dilapidated houses and set up nearly 800 tents for the temporary relocation of residents.

Dotar said some 140 Party cadres were organized to participate in the rescue, and police, firefighters, and militia mobilized to join in.

"We put people's interests first and spared no effort to minimize the loss," Dotar said.