April 21, 2013
It was not a typical Saturday for the children in Sichuan, China. Instead of enjoying a weekend morning, a 7.0 magnitude temblor rocked the province, causing buildings to collapse and roads to be blocked due to debris and landslides.
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 out of the rubble within the first 72 hours, also 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. Despite having families to care for as well, staff immediately arranged to go into the field to assess the damage and impact on the most vulnerable children and their families in the worst-affected areas of Ya’an and Lushan.
But the rescue and assessment efforts will not be easy. Roads have been blocked due to debris and landslides. Many could be cut off as rescue workers find their way through the rubble. Electrical lines are down and mobile communications signal poor in some areas. Wet weather has also been predicted by weather forecasters in the coming days. Mudslides and flash floods are also possible with heavy rain in the mountainous areas. Temperatures are expected to fall to as low as 13 degrees Celsius at night, and children without blankets and shelter could be left out in the cold.
More than 24 hours have passed, and children could have spent the night without clean water, hot food, blankets and a bed 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.
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 will almost certainly require a safe place to play, learn and talk through their experience in order to regain a sense of normalcy again.
About 230,000 children have been affected in this earthquake and we are now working around the clock to reach vulnerable children and their families.