China works to prevent 'epidemic'

Other News Materials 2 June 2008 16:47 (UTC +04:00)

China vowed Monday to prevent any outbreak of disease as it cleans up after last month's massive earthquake that killed nearly 70,000 people, reported CNN.

Three weeks after the quake struck Sichuan province, the Health Ministry said authorities were working to ensure the safety of drinking water and food, checking public health conditions and were disinfecting bodies.

"If we can do those four things properly, we have the confidence to guarantee there will be no epidemics after the disaster," ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an said.

Mao said in an interview posted on the central government's Web site that when bodies could not be cremated, they were buried in deep graves far from water sources.

He said more than 10,000 injured people had been transferred to hospitals outside Sichuan for treatment.

"As time goes by, the major killers of patients are multiple organ failure and complicated drug-resistance infection, instead of crush syndrome and acute renal failure in early periods after the quake," Mao said.

In a sign of how difficult rescue conditions are in parts of Sichuan, thousands of soldiers combed remote mountains in China's Sichuan province Monday in search of a military helicopter that crashed two days earlier while transporting earthquake victims.

The Russian-designed Mi-171 transport was carrying 19 people, 14 of them people injured in the quake, when it flew into fog and turbulence and crashed near the epicenter of the May 12 quake in the town of Wenchuan on Saturday, state media reported.

State broadcaster CCTV reported Monday that 4,000 soldiers were taking part in the search but gave no word on any survivors. China has relied heavily on its 250 Mi-171s to transport supplies and relief workers and evacuate the injured from widely scattered towns in the mountainous area where roads have been wiped out by landslides.

The confirmed death toll on Monday was 69,019, up just three from a day earlier. Another 18,627 people are still missing, government spokesman Lu Guangjin told a news conference.

Meanwhile, soldiers completed work on a channel to divert water from a lake formed when landslides triggered by the quake blocked the Tongkou river. Water levels in the lake had been rising steadily and threatened to flood surrounding areas, prompting authorities to evacuate nearly 200,000 people already uprooted by the quake.

Downstream villages stood empty Monday after police and soldiers ordered people out.

Also Monday, the government said a reconstruction committee had been set up under the National Development and Reform Committee, the Cabinet's top economic planning agency. An initial meeting resulted in a list of tasks and general schedule for completion, the NDRC said in a news release. It gave no details and did not say when the meeting had been held.

Committee members have dedicated themselves to a reconstruction plan that will "allow victims to rebuild their homesteads, and create a solid foundation and conditions for wider scale reconstruction," the release said.

The quake left more than 5 million homeless. Authorities have rushed to construct tent camps and prefabricated housing ahead of the summer rainy season and its expected hordes of disease-bearing mosquitoes.

A steady stream of donations from abroad have poured in to help meet demand for shelter and relief supplies, including from the U.S. and China's longtime rival, Japan.

Israel's military on Monday sent 73 tons of blankets, large tents and other supplies on top of earlier donations of sleeping bags, blankets, water purifiers, generators, and medical equipment, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Japan was sending 400 additional tents, it said.

With local hospitals overwhelmed, more than 10,000 of the injured have been transferred from Sichuan to 340 hospitals in Beijing, Shanghai and more than a dozen provinces, the Health Ministry said on its Web site.

Elsewhere in the quake zone, Hossam Elsharkawi, head of support operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, said his organization was preparing to bring in two large water purification units that will provide clean water to 15,000 people each.

"The government is doing an excellent job in urban areas, but it's taking time in places like this because it is so dispersed," said Elsharkawi, speaking in the village of Jiulong village, just north of the provincial capital of Chengdu.

Elsharkawi said the federation expected to be helping with relief work in Sichuan for three years and would ship in 100,000 tents by the end of June.

Although no Americans were reported killed in the quake, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing sent an updated alert advising travelers to avoid the quake zone and be prepared for delays in other parts of Sichuan.