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ACT Alert 1/2003 China Dayao Earthquake

Publication date

Geneva, 29 July, 2003 - A strong earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale and depth of 10 km hit China on July 21, 2003 - the second earthquake in half a year. The latest quake affected more than one million people and damaged more than a million housing units in Dayao county, Yunan Province in south east China. The quake center was 25 kilometers away from Tanhua Town. As of 24 July, 2003, the earthquake had claimed 16 lives and injured 506 people, 71 of whom serious. Aftershock are still being felt. 264,474 housing units have collapsed, making 8,406 families homeless. 336 schools have been damaged. The infrastructure like irrigation systems, roads, clinics and electricity have also been seriously affected. Damage is estimated at about 9.25 million yuan (some 1.2 million US dollars).
This disaster has affected 70% of Dayao county. A total of 148 villages with 48,048 households and a population of 199,509 were affected. Located 180 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital Kunming, Dayao is an impoverished area. More than 90% of the people belong to the Yi minority. The average income per year per capita is 275 yuan ($ 34).

The earthquake has had a devastating impact on people's lives. It has severely hampered access to villages that were difficult to reach to start with. There is a serious lack of medicine, food, clothing and shelter, and other basic necessities.

To make matters worse, Tanhua Township, which has not experienced any rainfall over the past month, suffered sudden heavy rain 20 minutes after the earthquake. The survivors are forced to stay outside at night in temperatures of 4-5 centigrade.

Li Leli described her experience: "I was in sound sleep when I felt a shock, hearing the mud falling. I was hit in the head, in the leg, on the shoulder. Slightly injured, I dashed out without putting on enough clothes."

A journalist reported collapsed houses everywhere when he entered Songziyuan Village on the morning of July, 22, 2003. There were big crevices in the streets and the roads were blocked by mud slides and big roots. Villagers were busy saving belongings. When the reporter arrived at Li Bizhong's home, a 32-year-old man could not help bursting into tears. Pointing at his fallen house he said: "When my family was sleeping soundly, the earthquake came. My house collapsed, and I made great efforts to climb out of the debris. My head and hands were wounded, but I didn't care since I should hurry to look for my wife and children. I found my two daughters in two piles of dust, and hurried to dig them out. My two daughters were both badly injured: one could still talk, while the other, with her mouth full of mud, could not say a word. The villagers helped her to the hospital. My wife was buried under the fallen house. More than ten villagers helped to rescue her, and she was dug out at 10 am the next day. She did not survive."

Emergency Needs

The quake survivors are in urgent need of quilts, blankets and tents to help survive the cold nights.

ACT Member Amity Foundation is focusing on the worst-hit Tanhua Township as their project area. Amity plans to provide 3,000 households with quilts and tents. The local partner in Yunan has requested factories in Kunming to produce cotton quilts. Plastic sheets for tents are being transported from Guanxi, the neighboring province, to the disaster areas. It is expected that these materials will be delivered to the quake victims on 1 August 2003.

Amity is requesting a total of US Dollars 100,000 to meet the above-mentioned needs. An ACT Appeal will be forthcoming.

Any funding indication or pledge should be communicated to Jessie Kgoroeadira, ACT Finance Officer ( Thank you.

Thank you for your attention.

For further information please contact:

ACT Director, Thor-Arne Prois (phone +41 22 791 6032 or mobile phone + 41 79 203 6055) or
ACT Appeals Officer, Mieke Weeda (phone +41 22 791 6035 or mobile phone +41 79 285 2916)