Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The death toll of more than 15,000 and certain to rise as more buried
Rescuers worked through a steady rain searching wrecked towns across
hilly stretches of Sichuan province that were stricken by Monday's magnitude-7.9
quake, China's deadliest in three decades.
Pandas International has confirmed via two reliable sources that 50 foreign
tourists including 12 Americans with the World Wildlife Federation are
alive and uninjured at the Wolong Hotel 7 km north of the Wolong Panda
Reserve and Breeding Center. Rescue workers have been hiking into the
remote area since the 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck about 30 km from
the Center and destroyed roads and communications. Rescuers are expected
imminently and it is hoped names of the missing tourists can be communicated
during the next 24 hours.
The sources reported about 90% of homes in Wolong have been destroyed
and aid and medicines are needed. The injured will need to be airlifted
to hospitals. The death toll is unknown. The government has made plans
to drop emergency supplies, but confirmation of an actual drop has not
occurred. The original plan to drop paratroopers into the region was
cancelled and heavy rains have slowed rescuers.
The State Forestry Department is the only official authority releasing
information about China’s pandas. They are reporting many reserves
in Minshan and Qianlaishan were seriously damaged and many protection
stations have collapsed. The SFD and our sources report that the Wolong
pandas are safe. However, the official government Xinhua news agency
has started to report the General Brigade of Sichuan Forestry Armed Police
rescued 40 trapped pandas from the Wolong Nature Reserve in Wenchuan.
Pandas International is seeking confirmation and further information.
At this time Pandas International believes our sources have verified
the staff at the Wolong Reserve has survived and are working hard. We
are waiting for further reports before confirming the health and well
being of all the Wolong pandas and their cubs.
We know there will be need for medicine for both the people and pandas
of Wolong. Suzanne Braden, director of Pandas International, is gravely
concerned about the availability of bamboo due to the destruction of
local farms and transportation disruptions. The Chengdu Panda Base, which
sustained no damage, is also concerned about the availability of bamboo
for their pandas. Wolong will also experience problems obtaining veterinary
medicine and nutritional supplements.
Sherry Lummis, Pandas International board member in China continues to
provide updates and says, "We are devoted to China's treasured pandas
and congratulate their efforts to save them, but our hearts are breaking
from the pain and suffering of China's people during this terrible tragedy."
Also, those of you who have been to Wolong most likely visited the 2000
year old irrigation system at Dujiangyan. It is being reported that the
dam at Dujiangyan is cracking.
Pandas International is collecting donations for relief efforts for the
pandas and any needs at the Wolong Panda Center. Please check back daily
Chair of Pandas International