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15april20104Dharamshala: The official death toll of the Kyigudo (Chinese: Yushu) earthquake has reached 617, with 313 missing and up to 10,000 injured.

Among the dead are 66 school children and 10 teachers. According to reports up to 70% of Kyigudo Schools have been totally destroyed.

22 students died at the Yushu Vocational School in Jiegu, state-run Chinese media Xinhua reported. Images of schoolbooks strewn amongst the debris have reminded some of May 2008 Sichuan quake which killed 87,000 people, including thousands of school students.

The Chinese government yesterday called for “all-out” rescue effort, sending 5000 soldiers, police and disaster response specialists to the area, however efforts have been hampered by a lack of supplies, and difficulty reaching the remote region.

“Freezing weather, high altitude and thin air have all made rescue efforts difficult,” Hou Shike, deputy head of China International Search and Rescue, told Xinhua.

Rescue teams comprising police, soldiers, firefighters and members of the public have been shown in news coverage digging through rubble for survivors with bare hands.

The death toll is expected to rise quickly over the coming days as sub-zero temperatures, heavy wind and sleet forecast will likely prove lethal for many of those still trapped in the rubble.

Survivors too are endangered by the lack of shelter, good medical supplies and personnel.

“The biggest problem now is that we lack tents, we lack medical equipment, medicine and medical workers,” Zhuohuaxia, a local spokesman, told Xinhua.

Despite offers of help from the US and the UN, China has so far refused any international assistance.

The Kyigudo region, originally populated by nomadic Tibetan herders, has undergone a rapid urbanisation process under the Chinese resettlement policy. The devastation caused by the 6.9 magnitude quake was particularly severe as the basic mud and wood houses most settlers live in could not stand up to the tremors. Approximately 85% of Jeigu buildings were destroyed in the quake.

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