‘Confident’ China rules out post-quake epidemics

Chinese medical teams have fanned out across the earthquake zone, disinfecting makeshift camps and educating survivors, and on Monday the Health Ministry said it could guarantee there would be no epidemics.

Where bodies could not be cremated, they had been been buried deep underground and far from water sources to prevent contamination, ministry spokesperson Mao Qunan said.

”Theoretically, when there is a large movement of people, the risk increases for the spread of transmittable diseases,” he said on a webcast on the central government’s website.

”…We have the ability and the confidence to guarantee there will be no epidemics after the disaster.”

China has mobilised its military to unblock roads, clear rubble and deliver food, water and tents to millions displaced by the May 12 earthquake. Rescuers are racing to clear lakes and set up housing before the summer rainy season begins.

As of June 1, officials said the earthquake had killed more than 69 000 people, with nearly 19 000 missing and about 368 500 injured, Xinhua said.

A tent city has sprung up in Anxian, just off a main road running through mountain fields of corn and watermelons.

Pre-fabricated houses are going up, as they are elsewhere, to provide a more long-term shelter away from the stifling heat of leaky tents.

The people, mostly farmers and from Chaping, very near the epicentre of the quake, have nothing to do.

Zhang Zhaohua (24) sat in her tent with her 22-month-old boy and said the adults could stand the heat and the unusual diet of instant noodles, served morning and night.

”It’s fine for us, but not for the little ones,” she said.

Search continues

Chinese rescuers continued their search for a military helicopter carrying injured quake survivors that crashed in heavy fog on Saturday.

On board were 14 survivors and medical workers and five crew.

The earthquake has gripped China, unleashing a flood of donations and volunteers to help in relief work.

Troops withdrew from a dangerous ”quake lake” formed by a massive landslide at Tangjiashan after clearing a channel for water to flow out from behind the blockage. The water had risen to within seven metres of the lowest point of the unstable natural dam by this weekend, threatening downstream communities.

Trucks trundled across Sichuan with materials for pre-fabricated housing.

In Yingxiu, dynamite was being used to clear rubble and unsafe buildings. Workers vigorously sprayed disinfectant as overcast and muggy weather settled in.

”As time goes by, the major killers of inpatients are multiple organ failure and complicated drug-resistant infection, instead of crush syndrome and acute renal failure in early periods after the quake,” ministry spokesperson Mao said.

He said that deep burial of the dead in Sichuan had been ”scientifically handled” and water sources would not be contaminated.

President Hu Jintao travelled to the south-east corner of Gansu Province, where towns along the fault line were also heavily damaged. He visited a Pakistani medical team, one of several foreign teams doing relief work in China. – Reuters 2008

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Lindsay Beck
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