China works to prevent disease among earthquake survivors

Workers in protective suits circle collapsed communities in trucks, spraying disinfectant on the rubble.

china quake 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
china quake 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Chinese authorities are racing to prevent diseases breaking out among 5 million people left homeless in the wake of the massive earthquake that killed almost 70,000. Workers in protective suits circled collapsed communities in trucks on Monday, spraying disinfectant on the rubble. Providing safe food, drinking water and temporary shelters was a priority following the May 12 earthquake, the Health Ministry said. Bodies discovered in the rubble were being disinfected, ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an said in an interview posted on the central government's Web site. "If we can do those four things properly, we have the confidence to guarantee there will be no epidemics after the disaster," Mao said. He said there was no evidence of contagious diseases in the quake zone, where survivors were crammed into tents and other temporary shelters. Any bodies that could not be cremated were being buried far from natural water sources to prevent contamination, and more than 10,000 injured people had been transferred to hospitals outside Sichuan for treatment, he said. The smell of disinfectant lingered in Hanwang's silent streets, where police were also on patrol for thieves. Xu Sunyong watched from outside his heavily cracked building as self-employed movers brought down padded chairs and even the front door of his sixth-floor apartment. Thieves had already broken in and stolen his appliances. "Those people deserve to die," he said with disdain. 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. In a sign of how difficult rescue conditions are in parts of Sichuan, thousands of soldiers combed remote mountains Monday in search of a military helicopter that crashed 48 hours earlier while transporting earthquake victims. The Russian-designed Mi-171 transport had been 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. 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. A reconstruction committee under the National Development and Reform Committee, the Cabinet's top economic planning body, has agreed on a list of tasks and a general schedule for completion, the NDRC said in a news release issued Monday. It gave no details and did not say when the list was agreed. Authorities have rushed to construct tent camps and prefabricated housing for the millions of homeless ahead of the summer rainy season and the expected hordes of disease-bearing mosquitoes.