Beijing warns volunteers away from the area.
At least 589 people have died as a result of the 6.1-magnitude earthquake that devastated China’s remote southwestern province of Yunnan on Sunday.
China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs said today that another 2,401 people are injured, 230,000 have been evacuated, and that more than 80,000 homes are damaged or destroyed.
Rescue efforts in Yunnan remain heavily hampered by traffic delays and landslides. Search efforts in Longtoushan are being concentrated in a 600-meter swathe of hillside in the township’s central urban area. Residents say that school dormitories had collapsed in the quake, echoing a 2008 disaster in Sichuan which killed more than 80,000 people, thousands of them children who died as their cheaply-built schools crumbled.
China called for civilian volunteers to stay away from the disaster zone as traffic blocked supply routes and “substandard” relief goods flooded into the area.
More than 18,000 professional rescuers have headed to the disaster zone, state media said, most of them military and police. But huge tailbacks have developed around the worst-hit areas, mainly consisting of cars driven by members of the public bringing in supplies or offering help. Workers have also been halting traffic to set off explosions on the mountainsides to dislodge huge boulders perched precariously over roads.
Pang Chenmin, head of the ministry’s disaster-relief bureau, urged the public to avoid the disaster zone as the 72-hour “golden period” for rescue drew to a close. “In order to ensure the best chances of rescuing survivors, we advise nonprofessional groups and volunteers against entering the quake zone by themselves so as not to cause traffic and communication difficulties,” he said, according to the official news agency Xinhua.
Many volunteers who walked or hitchhiked to Longtoushan have slept out in the open or entered tents used by survivors. Some brought their own vehicles into the worst-hit areas, carrying in goods such as fizzy drinks. “Some relief materials are unfit for use in disaster areas, some are substandard products, some are overly abundant and take up precious space and traffic resources,” added Pang.