November 29, 1998

Kunming/New York, November 30, 1998 — The international medical relief agency Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is sending blankets, medicine, and other emergency assistance to 10,000 victims of the Thursday, November, 19, earthquakes in a remote, mountainous region of Yunnan Province, China. The earthquakes, which left an estimated 25,000 people homeless, killed 5, and injured over 4,000 people.

The relief materials will be distributed in coordination with the All-China Women's Federation, which is organizing the relief activities in Ninglang County, the hardest-hit region. Government authorities have already promised to send 7,000 blankets, 1000 tents, as well as emergency medical supplies to the area. MSF relief materials, including basic medical supplies, plastic sheeting for shelters, water containers, and 10,000 padded quilts, arrived in Ninglang County this past weekend.

A MSF team from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, has just returned from an assessment mission to Ninglang County. Local township hospitals—some damaged by the earthquake—were receiving hundreds of patients daily, and operating far beyond their capacity. With temperatures dipping well below freezing at night, patients are being housed in small open-air shelters next to the damaged clinics.

In the affected mountain villages, local residents are living in makeshift shelters fashioned from tree branches and materials salvaged from destroyed homes. A freezing rain has been falling, but most residents do not have blankets or warm clothing. Many have no shelter at all and are sleeping in the open.

Due to numerous aftershocks, most residents have not returned to their damaged homes. Newspapers are reporting that local authorities have warned residents not to because of the possibility of larger aftershocks. The Yunnan Red Cross and local authorities are also distributing quilts, medicines, and some clothing to a small number of people—but have thus far only reached a few hundred residents.