Earthquake in southwest China

Kunming - Medecins Sans Frontieres is sending blankets, medicine and other emergency assistance to 10,000 victims of last Thursday's earthquakes in a remote, mountainous area in Yunnan Province. The quakes, 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-Womens Federation, which is organising the relief activities in Ninglang County, the hardest-hit area. Government authorities have already promised to send 7,000 blankets, 1000 tents and emergency medical supplies to the area.

The MSF materials include 10,000 padded quilts, basic medical supplies, plastic sheeting for shelters and water containers will arrive in Ninglang this weekend and be distributed directly to villagers in the surrounding mountain villages.

A team from the MSF office in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, has just returned from the area. Local township hospitals - some damaged by the quake - were receiving hundreds of patients daily, far beyond their capacity. With temperatures dipping well below freezing at night, patients are being housed on the ground in small shelters next to the damaged clinics.

In the mountain villages, local residents are living in makeshift shelters of branches or salvaged materials from their destroyed homes. With a freezing rain falling, most do not have blankets or warm clothing. Many have no shelter at all and are sleeping in the open.

Because of numerous aftershocks, most dare not return to their damaged homes. According to newspaper reports, local authorities have warned residents not to return to their homes because of possibly large aftershocks.

The Yunnan Red Cross and local authorities are distributing quilts, medicine and some clothing to a small number of people - thus far they have only reached a few hundred residents.