Days after a powerful earthquake shook mountainous southwest China, killing at least 82 people, rain, flash floods, and mudslides endangered the search for scores of people who were still missing on Thursday (Sept. 8).
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck on Monday at a depth of 10km around 43km southeast of the city of Kangding in Sichuan Province, displacing thousands of people into makeshift camps.
According to the state-run CCTV, 36 deaths were reported in Ya'an city, which is nearby, while 46 fatalities were reported in Ganzi Prefecture, which is close to the epicenter. Without elaborating on the circumstances surrounding those who are still missing, CCTV claimed that 35 people were still missing and more than 270 others had been injured.
Up until Thursday night, there was a yellow notice from the National Weather Service warning of a "risk of geological disaster," and moderate rain was expected to last through Friday with heavy rains in certain places. "Since the post-earthquake geological conditions are inherently fragile, and the impact of additional rainfall may lead to landslides and mudslides, the local area needs to beware of secondary disasters," China's meteorological administration said.
More than 10,000 workers from the People's Liberation Army, paramilitary police, and fire rescue agencies were sent to the area to conduct search operations and landslide cleanup work in the isolated countryside.
Rescuers often had to drag locals across hilly terrain on ropes and stretchers as they braved flash floods and landslides induced by aftershocks in order to evacuate them from ruined homes. CCTV footage showed soldiers ferrying passengers across river rapids while wearing orange life jackets and combat fatigues.
"We also waded through the water to get to Xingfu village. The mountain torrents contain rocks... the stones you can't see in the water pose the greatest threat to us," a rescue team member named Tan Ke told CCTV. "We quickly used ropes to build a human ladder ... when we first started wading, the water reached our knees and thighs. By the time we got to a safe place, the flash flood had reached waist level."
According to the state-owned People's Daily newspaper, more than 22,000 people have already been relocated to 124 temporary locations spread out across Ganzi and Ya'an. The newspaper reported that within one minute after the earthquake, more than 21,000 pupils and employees at a school in Shimian county, where Ya'an is located, were safely evacuated.
The report said, local governments have already received more than 100 million yuan (about $14 million) in donations for disaster assistance, and the Sichuan government has issued an emergency notice requiring local governments to provide hardship allowances for impacted citizens.