Cold Snap Complicates Race to Save Quake Survivors

Rescuers battle cold snap, with temperatures as low as minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2023 9:35 AM CST
Deadly Quake Leaves Chinese Out in the Cold
In this aerial photo released by Xinhua News Agency, rescuers search a collapsed building in Caotan village of Minhe Hui and Tu Autonomous County in Haidong City, northwestern China's Qinghai Province on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. Temperatures were reaching as low as -4 degrees overnight.   (Zhang Hongxiang/Xinhua via AP)

Subzero temperatures are complicating efforts to rescue people trapped and injured by an earthquake that struck China's Gansu province bordering Mongolia late Monday. The quake—described as a 6.2 magnitude temblor by the China Earthquake Networks Center and a 5.9 magnitude quake by the US Geological Survey—struck around midnight local time in rural Jishishan County, among the poorest regions in China, about 3 miles from the border separating Gansu and Qinghai provinces, splitting villages and bringing down buildings, per the BBC. China Central Television reported at least 536 people were injured and more than 155,390 houses in Gansu were damaged, per CNN.

The death toll stands at 113 in Gansu and 13 in Qinghai, where another 20 people have been reported missing in a landslide, per Al Jazeera. That makes this the deadliest earthquake in China since a 6.2 magnitude tremor hit southern Yunnan province in 2014, killing about 600. At least nine aftershocks have been recorded, the strongest one at 4.1 magnitude. A 5.5 magnitude quake was reported Tuesday in the western region of Xinjiang, but "there were no immediate reports of casualties," per the BBC. Officials were racing to help those trapped in Gansu and Qinghai amid a cold snap, with temperatures reaching as low as minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, per the New York Times.

"It is too cold to bear," Wang Yi, chief commander of the Blue Sky Rescue Team, China's largest nongovernmental humanitarian organization, tells the BBC. Evacuation camps were speedily set up with people huddling over makeshift fires, per the outlet. Thousands of tents, folding beds, quilts, and portable fire pits are en route to the high-altitude region, CNN reports, noting state media aired footage showing families huddling together under blankets in a public square in Jishishan. Some survivors described waking and running out of their homes barefoot. A college student told the Times that residents of her building risked running back inside after the quake to grab more clothing. (More China earthquake stories.)

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