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China quake survivors face severe shortage of water, food, shelter

Thousands of survivors of the 6.5-magnitude earthquake in China's Yunnan province are still cut off from help and facing severe shortage of water, food and shelter, three days after the disaster on Sunday (Aug 3). Channel NewsAsia's Valarie Tan trekked 2 kilometres to get to one quake-hit village.

LUDIAN COUNTY, YUNNAN PROVINCE: Thousands of survivors of the 6.5-magnitude earthquake in China's Yunnan province are still cut off from help and facing severe shortage of water, food and shelter, three days after the disaster on Sunday (Aug 3).

Their plight is made worse by the call for civilian volunteers to stay away from the disaster zone, as traffic blocked supply routes. Residents there have long been aware that they are staying in a quake-prone zone, but say they are simply too poor to move elsewhere or to reinforce their homes.

Channel NewsAsia's Valarie Tan visited the worst-hit disaster zone of Ludian County in Yunnan province. Only two wheelers are allowed on the only road leading to the disaster zone as authorities want to avoid congestion. She rode pillion on one motorbike. After that ride, one still needs to trek on foot, two kilometres down mountainous dirt roads to one of the most remote and poorest villages destroyed by Sunday's earthquake.

Electricity and water supply are still cut off. Villagers said they only received relief supplies three days after the quake, the worst the region has seen in 14 years. Quake survivor Li Huaihong said: "I've lived here since young. It (house) fell all at once. We're now faced with how to rebuild, where to stay. I hope the government will help us."

The area is also one of the poorest regions in China. Average annual income there is 4,300 renminbi (US$700 or S$874), way below the national level of 8,900 renminbi.

For the villagers there, building a quake-proof home is beyond their means. Hence, even if their houses are not safe from earthquakes, "we have no choice since we are poor...we cannot stay anywhere else", said Li Huaihong.

Villagers said there have been efforts by the government to improve their living conditions in recent years, including clearing a walking path in the village and providing a one-time cash subsidy of US$1,600 in 2012 to reinforce their homes.

But they said that is not enough, especially when about 60 percent of the population there survives on less than US$1 a day, and the earthquake on August 3 has just made their lives all the more difficult. 

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