, ZHAOTONG, China, Sep 8 – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Saturday visited earthquake victims in southwest China after twin tremors left at least 80 people dead and hundreds more injured, state media reported.
Television pictures showed Wen, who arrived late Friday, in a tent with survivors in the remote and mountainous area, where crippled infrastructure was complicating efforts to assess the full scale of the disaster.
Wen, who is a popular figure in China and is often shown lending his support in disaster zones, made a speech at an emergency centre surrounded by rescuers, a day after twin 5.6-magnitude quakes struck the poorly developed region.
A spokesman with the provincial civil affairs department meanwhile warned the toll could climb further because impassable roads and downed communications were making it difficult to collect information.
A total of 731 people were injured when the tremors struck on the border of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, toppling houses and sending panicked crowds onto the streets.
“A quake as strong as Friday’s… could have caused fewer or even no casualties in a more developed region” – The Global Times.
The area is prone to earthquakes. In May 2008, an 8.0-magnitude tremor rocked Sichuan and parts of neighbouring Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, killing tens of thousands and flattening swathes of the province.
The Global Times newspaper said the latest tremor again highlighted China’s continued vulnerability to natural disasters, despite decades of rapidly improving wealth and living standards in much of the country.
“A quake as strong as Friday’s… could have caused fewer or even no casualties in a more developed region,” it said.