The Qinghai earthquake tragedy

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Earthquakes can be a terrible thing – and thankfully do not occur in my part of the world – at least not  of a large magnitude. Over the past few years there have been several monstrous natural disasters affecting various parts of the planet, though despite the tragedy of one particularly nasty tsunami, earthquakes have easily been the most prominent.

From the 2008 Sichuan earthquake which claimed thousands upon thousands of lives, to the 2010 Haiti disaster, the most recent earthquake tore apart the high altitude region of Qinghai in eastern China. While the death toll is expected to rise from the current 2064, a further 175 people are still missing, and 12,000 others remain injured.

The problem with earthquakes is not simply the deaths caused by the initial violent upheavals – where people are crushed beneath buildings – but the aftermath. As thousands of people are suddenly homeless; often with little food, water or shelter, diseases and chaos run rampant. Of the 12,000 reported injured, how many of them now will fall prey to the effects of insufficient relief efforts or environmental conditions.

 The Qinghai region is cold and mountainous. Mostly devoid of large earth-moving equipment which is crucial for clearing away the post-quake rubble. With narrow winding roads leading into it, it’s no small feat responding to a problem of this size in any acceptable timeframe. Already, it was reported that several trucks carrying much needed relief supplies had overturned as they tried to get into the area. Others are reluctant to enter the city themselves; fearful of being mobbed by the thousands of cold, hungry and injured people needing assistance.

China called a nationwide 3 minutes of silence, where sporting events were cancelled, karaoke bars closed down – even online games, sports and tv shows were cancelled, all in honour of the lost. A nationwide television charity show raised 2.175 billion ($350 million Australian approx) which is solely to help the surviving quake victims.

One can only hope that anything and everything is being done to return the lives of the affected to some degree of order, though I can’t imagine how long it will take to actually move on.

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