Wen Jiabao Misled by Local Officials Over Quake Deaths

September 10, 2012 6:38 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 12:23 pm
This photo taken on September 8, 2012 shows a woman carrying her child on her back along a street in Yiliang after two quakes hit the area on the border of southwestern Yunnan and Guizhou provinces an hour apart around the middle of the day followed by a string of aftershocks. (STR/AFP/GettyImages)
This photo taken on Sept. 8, 2012 shows a woman carrying her child on her back along a street in Yiliang after two quakes hit the area on the border of southwestern Yunnan and Guizhou provinces an hour apart around the middle of the day followed by a string of aftershocks. (STR/AFP/GettyImages)

During a visit to areas in Yunnan Province damaged by last Friday’s devastating earthquakes, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was misled by local officials over the deaths of three students.

The officials, according to state-run China National Radio, told Wen that the three students were killed by falling rocks triggered by the two quakes. The students had actually died when their school collapsed during the temblor, according to a local teacher.  

Wen flew to Yibin in Sichuan Province immediately after the quakes struck, later taking a train to Yunnan’s Yiliang county, which was worst-hit during the disaster, and finally arrived in the town of Luozehe.

When he visited the county, local officials told Wen that falling rocks killed the students, reported state-run radio. Another official who showed Wen the damage, Wang Jianying, the deputy director of Yunnan Provincial Department of Education, also said that no schools collapsed, but only experienced light damage, reported state-run radio and the Shandong Business Daily.

But Zhu Yinquan, the only teacher at Yilian County’s Yunluo Elementary School–the school that apparently collapsed–told Chinese media that seven children were eating their lunches in their classroom when the quake struck. His remarks appeared in a story on the Chinese news portal Sina, but the original article had been deleted, and it was not clear to which media Zhu spoke.

Following the quake, Zhu rushed back into the classroom and rescued seven children from the collapsed building, but the three other students were missing and later died.

The quakes, which mainly affected the poor and rugged regions of Yunnan and Guizhou Provinces, killed at least 81 people, injured around 800, and prompted the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, it was reported by the state-run Xinhua. The economic loss was also high, with around 3.7 billion yuan ($583 million) in damages.

Officials in Yiliang county said around 517 schools were damaged throughout the county while three students were killed when an apparently poorly-constructed school with tile roofs collapsed. All the schools in the county were closed following the quakes.

The U.S. Geological Survey said both quakes, which were both magnitude-5.6 on the Richter scale, hit within an hour of one another on Friday.

Immediately following the temblors, local officials said that shoddy construction and poor infrastructure throughout Yunnan Province, a poor area dominated by the Yi ethnic group, did not hold up well against the earthquakes

“Many of the buildings there are built from bricks and beams, and they don’t have much load-bearing capacity,” Yunnan seismological chief Huang Fugang said. “These structures basically aren’t earthquake-proof.”

Mr. Li, a teacher from Maoping Middle School in Yiling, told NTD Television that “basically all the walls in the classrooms are cracked.”

“There are still about 200 students living in the field. We’re giving them meals, but running water has been cut. We have to prepare our own water. There’s enough for cleaning and cooking, but there’s no drinking water,” he continued.

A teacher with Luojiexiang Central Elementary School, Mr. Chen. told the broadcaster that two students were injured, but said that “no buildings collapsed” but a great amount of damage was inflicted upon the school, describing it as “dangerous” to go inside. “We need experts to assess whether classes can resume,” he added.

Read the original Chinese article. 

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