China: Sichuan earthquake leaves children vulnerable
An estimated 230,000 children have been affected by a powerful earthquake that hit China’s Sichuan province on Saturday. Fan Xiaowen, Save the Children’s Sichuan Programme Manager, reports.
It was not a typical Saturday for the children in Sichuan, China.
A 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the province, causing buildings to collapse and blocking roads with debris.
At least 180 people have been killed in the most affected areas of Ya’an and Lushan, children among them.
Overall, 1.5 million people have been affected and tens of thousands left homeless.
Rescue workers dove straight into action, trying to pull as many people as possible out of the rubble within the first 72 hours – known as the ‘golden hours’ for rescuing quake affected people.
In Chengdu, where Save the Children’s closest field office is located, tremors were felt but little damage was sustained.
Our staff immediately arranged to go to the worst-affected areas of Ya’an and Lushan to assess the damage and impact on the most vulnerable children and their families.
The rescue efforts will not be easy. Roads have been blocked due to debris and landslides. Electrical lines are down and mobile phone signal is poor in some areas.
Wet weather is forecast for the coming days – bringing a threat of mudslides and flash floods in the mountainous areas. Temperatures are expected to fall to as low as 13 degrees Celsius at night, and children could be left out in the cold without shelter or blankets.
It is going to be a very distressing period for young children, especially those who have lost their homes and playgrounds and had school interrupted.
They are having to cope without clean water, hot food, blankets or beds to sleep in.
As we go into the worst affected areas, we are especially concerned about the children who have been separated from their parents in the chaos.
They will almost certainly require a safe place to play, learn and talk through their experience in order to regain a sense of normality again.
We are now working around the clock to reach vulnerable children and their families.