UpdateDisease fear arises in Sichuan aftermath

16 May 2008 06:00  [Source: ICIS news]

(Updates death toll in paragraph three)

SINGAPORE  (ICIS news)--Four days after a deadly 7.9 magnitude earthquake rocked Sichuan, insufficient body bags fuelled fears of epidemics while hope for the remaining 25,000 people buried under the rubble fade, media reports said on Friday.

“Within 72 hours after the disaster is the critical period. Generally, the sooner the victims are rescued, the better”, Liang Guiping, the chief engineer of Shijiazhuang Bureau of Seismology told local media.

The official death toll stood at 22,069 but experts estimate the eventual total to exceed 50,000. Apart from the heavy human cost, the financial cost of the quake was estimated at a staggering $20bn (€13bn), according to consulting firm Air Worldwide.

Fears of an epidemic were fuelled by comments by a Communist Party official, Bai Licheng, who was cited by Xinhua saying “we are in urgent need of body bags”.

China’s Ministry of Health issued a notice on Friday ordering bodies to be cleaned where they were found and buried as soon as possible, far from water sources and downwind from populated areas.

It also urged the monitoring of food and drinking water hygiene, sanitation, chemical poisoning prevention and treatment and psychological needs of victims.

However, there was no epidemic of infectious diseases or significant public health emergencies currently, it added.

The country’s Disease Prevention and Control Centre has been mobilised and over 144 medical personnel have been despatched to guide health and epidemic work at the quake-stricken area.

Fighting against time, Chinese president Hu Jintao arrived in Mianyang near the disaster zone to encourage the 135,000 troops and medics despatched to the province to launch an all-out effort to search and rescue those still trapped alive under the debris.

Damaged transport links have hampered relief efforts but Chengdu’s international airport has resumed full operations following repairs to air traffic control facilities. This was expected to aid relief efforts, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said on Thursday.

Among survivors, fears of a possible spike in food prices were notable as existing rice supply problems may now become worse, local official sources said.

Meanwhile, donations continue to pour in globally with aid teams from Singapore, Russia, South Korea due to arrive in the coming days. The Japanese elite disaster rescue team is expected to arrive on Friday.

The earthquake also damaged 391 dams, which were currently being inspected.

More than 2,000 troops were sent to work on the Zipingpu dam, which is situation upstream from the badly damaged city of Dujiangyan as concerns mount on possible cracks and floodings.

However, the Ministry of Water Resources announced in a statement on Thursday that the dam together with two other major dams were structurally safe.

The Three Gorges Dam build to withstand Earthquakes of up to 7 on the Richter scale apparently escaped unscathed in the wake of the quake.

The province's chemicals industry has been hit hard by the disaster, which has led to major production and logistics problems. Nine out of the remaining 10 firms among the 66 suspended from trading on the Shanghai Stock Exchange issued statements on Friday detailing the damage.

The quake also affected the markets.

Two fertilizer plants collapsed on Monday and numerous shutdowns have been reported.

PetroChina said its operations had been disrupted and it may now scrap plans to build a new 800,000 tonne/year ethylene cracker in Chengdu.

Its subsidiary Nanchong refinery has restarted its crude distillation unit (CDU) and some other units producing solvent oil, baseoils and paraffin would resume soon, a company source said.

On Thursday, three dimethyl ether (DME) producers said they had resumed normal production but were still being affected by logistics problems.

Melamine buyers said they were braced for a huge spike in third quarter prices due to reduced urea supply.

Meanwhile, trucks carrying 200 tonnes of toluene di-isocyanates (TDI) have been stranded since Monday on a major road in the northeast of Sichuan, a local logistics company source said.

Source : www.getwonder.com

($1 = €0.65)

Have you personally or your business been impacted by the earthquake in China? If you have any information or thoughts you would like to share, post your comments or photos on the ICIS China Earthquake forum. You can also send photos and video directly to us at icisnews.asia@icis.com or icisnews.europe@icis.com

With additional reporting by Gabriela Wheeler, Ng Hun Wei, Chow Bee Lin, Prema Viswanathan, Helen Lee, Peh Soo Hwee, Anu Agarwal, Hong Chou Hui, Bohan Loh and Dolly Wu

By: Bohan Loh
+65 6780 4359

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