Braving sub-zero conditions, thousands of rescuers faced an uphill task on Wednesday finding and treating survivors of a strong earthquake that rocked a remote area in China’s northwestern Gansu province more than a day ago.
In Gansu, 113 people had been found dead as of 9 a.m. on Wednesday (0100 GMT), and 782 were injured, authorities said.
The death toll in Qinghai rose to 18 with 198 injured as of 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Seventy-eight people have been found alive in Gansu, where rescue operations ended on Tuesday afternoon, state and local media said, as focus shifted to treating the wounded and resettling residents with the months-long winter at the top of mind.
The magnitude-6.2 earthquake jolted Jishishan county near the border straddling Gansu and Qinghai provinces a minute before midnight on Monday, sending frightened residents out of homes into the cold in the dead of the night.
It damaged roads, power and water lines as well as agricultural production facilities, and triggered landslides and mudslides, Reuters reported. Authorities continued to restrict vehicles from entering affected highways.
Emergency responses have been activated, with thousands of personnel from various departments dispatched into the mountainous disaster zone to look for survivors and resettle them.
In Gansu, more than 207,000 homes were wrecked and nearly 15,000 houses collapsed, affecting more than 145,000 people.
More than 128,000 emergency supply items, including tents, quilts, tent lights and folding beds, were delivered while food such as steamed buns and instant noodles were provided to the victims, state television CCTV said.
The quake-stricken area is geographically a transition zone between two plateaus, featuring terrains of altitudes ranging from 1,800 to 4,300 meters (5,906 to 14,108 feet) with “very complex” topography, CCTV said.
Recovery from Monday night’s earthquake has been further challenged by the powerful cold snap that has gripped most of China since last week. Temperatures around the quake epicenter in Gansu fell to about minus 15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday night.
According to local media citing researchers, people trapped under rubble exposed to minus 10 C conditions without help run the risk of developing hypothermia and may only be able to live for five to 10 hours if uninjured.