(Beijng (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Chinese central government has sent about 2,500 soldiers to the south-western province of Yunnan, to help in rescue operations after the devastating earthquake that hit the Zhaotong area yesterday. According to the authorities the earthquake , which struck about 10 kilometers beneath the surface, with a magnitude of 6.1, caused "at least 381 dead and more than 1,800 wounded". The troops have been equipped with detection instruments and excavation equipment to help search for survivors still trapped under the rubble.
President Xi Jinping has called on everyone involved to make "every effort" to help the survivors, while the Premier Li Keqiang is traveling to the area to oversee operations. Immediately after the disaster some 300 police officers and firefighters sprung into action, along with 400 volunteers. According to an eyewitness, "it looks like a battlefield after a bombardment".
According to data from Xinhua, almost 60 thousand people have been displaced: over 12 thousand homes were destroyed after the earthquake, while the other 30 thousand were damaged. The government has sent 2 thousand tents, 3 thousand inflatable beds, 3 thousand quilts and rainproof jackets. However, rescuers are having "enormous difficulties" in getting aid to the area worst affected by the earthquake. The incessant rain and the continuous landslides have rendered almost all roads to Zhaotong impassable.
The residents lay the blame with the local government for allowing the construction of buildings with poor quality materials for cash kickbacks and promoting a low cost urbanization. Photographs of collapsed walls, buildings split into two and desperate rescuers have appeared on the Internet. A user writes: "These buildings are the most dangerous places in the world in the event of an earthquake."
South-west China is highly seismic, and the growth of the industrial sector in the region has resulted in the destruction of forests and fields, which for centuries have held landslides. In 2008, an earthquake in Sichuan province, which borders to the north with the Yunnan Province, caused tens of thousands of deaths. In 1970 in Yunnan, a devastating earthquake claimed the lives of at least 15 thousand people.