Earthquake Kills at Least 398 People in China


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At 4:30 pm local time (4:30 am EST), a 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Chinese province of Yunnan. The epicenter of the quake was recorded some 230 miles northeast of Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan province. Current estimates state that at least 398 people have died and another 1,801 have suffered injuries of some degree.

Thus far, 7,000 emergency personnel - including 5,000 firefighters, police, and soldiers, have been mobilized by the Chinese government to respond to the disaster. The emergency personnel are taking 2,000 tents, 3,000 folding beds, 3,000 quilts and 3,000 coats with them to the affected area in hopes of alleviating any and all suffering.

Along with aid from firefighters, police, and soldiers, Beijing has allocated 600 million yuan ($97 million) to help rebuild the affected province.

Investigators state that the devastation from the earthquake was compounded by multiple factors, including the poor quality of the housing and the higher-than-average population density of the impacted region. Those factors, added with the persistent rainfall over the past few days, has slowed and hampered all rescue efforts.

There has been so much precipitation, in fact, that the water has been trapped by landslides, creating dammed barrier-lakes which threaten even more residents and power stations downstream. If the lakes break or flood, many more people could be without power in the coming days.

Early estimates state that nearly 210,000 households and over one million residents have been affected by the earthquake, whether it be directly or indirectly through loss of power, communications, or road blockages preventing food and supplies from reaching the villages.

On Sunday, the White House released a statement pledging assistance if need be: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those that lost their lives, those injured or displaced, and all the people of China on this difficult day. U.S. disaster response officials are in contact with their Chinese counterparts. The United States stands ready to assist."

The UN also expressed its sympathy for those affected by the earthquake, stating, "(The Secretary General) offers his condolences to the Chinese Government and the families of those killed, and his deepest sympathies to those who were injured or otherwise affected in this disaster." Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's spokesperson also stated that the UN was ready to mobilize aid if called for.

With more rainfall and further landslides expected in the next few days, along with the remote nature of the affected region, death tolls are only expected to rise as rescuers and relief workers continue in their efforts.

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