It has been 1 week since the 6.9 (China measured 7.1) earthquake that hit the town of Jyekundo located in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in southern Qinghai province. The official death toll stands at 2046, though the death toll is likely to rise over the coming weeks. At least 12,135 people have been injured with nearly 1500 of the injuries being serious. Those with serious injuries have been airlifted to hospitals in Xining, Chengdu, Lanzhou and Lhasa. The central government has already allocated Y500 million ($75 million) for the relief effort in Yushu.
Most of Qinghai has had snow the past two days which has slowed down supply vehicles going to the quake zone. It has also made living conditions in Jyekundo more difficult than they have already been. With freezing temperatures and moderate snowfall, the living conditions in Yushu have been very depressing. Most of the 100,000 residents of Jyekundo, also known as Jiegu or Gyegu, are homeless. Ninety percent of the buildings in the city have been destroyed. Almost all of the residents are now living in government issued tents and are relying on daily rations of food and water. UNICEF has sent 500 sets of winter clothing for children along with 2000 blankets and 150 tents to be used for schools.
We have been able to contact most of our friends in Jyekundo. Nearly all of them have lost loved ones. A few of our friends have serious injuries, but fortunately, only 1 of our good friends has been killed. I was hoping to return to the quake zone today, but could not get the proper permission. No foreigners are being allowed in the quake zone at this time. It is hard to say how long the area will be closed. Hopefully, it will reopen again in the coming months so that I can go and visit my many friends in the region.
My wife is going to start visiting children from Yushu who have been airlifted to Xining. Many of these children were not able to travel with relatives and are feeling quite alone while they recover in the hospital. My family and I are also volunteering our time and efforts in anyway possible towards the relief efforts.
Yushu Prefecture, part of the traditional Tibetan region of Kham, consists largely of high elevation grasslands where yaks, sheep and horses graze. The China news has reported that over 40,000 livestock were killed in the earthquake, or nearly 8% of the region's total. With so many people dependent on livestock, this is going to hurt the local herdsmen tremendously.
It is still quite strange for my family and I to believe that we were in a major earthquake. It is difficult to read stories on the news about the devastation in Yushu and even harder to talk to our friends who are still in the destruction. This is an area that we deeply love and consider our "Tibetan hometown". We have many friends in the area who have lost nearly everything they own. We will patiently wait for opportunities to return to Yushu and help our friends and the community.
Consider making a donation to the earthquake victims. Go to Yushu Earthquake Relief to make a donation.