Heifer International continues to pursue information about the safety and condition of Heifer China staff, volunteers and project families in the wake of the strong earthquake that struck the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan over the weekend. The 7.0-magnitude quake struck near Ya'an City, population 1.5 million, early Saturday and the government is reporting nearly 200 people killed and more than 8,000 injured.
Heifer International has worked in China since 1946, but the modern program began in 1984. Yaan City is one of Heifer Chinas three earliest project cities, which included the Yaan Dairy Goat Project, where Heifer donated dairy goats to improve bloodstock. Heifer animals in the quake zone are mostly goats, pigs and rabbitssmall animals because the people have small farms without the ability to support large ruminants.
A number of Heifer China staff was participating in a meeting in Cambodia with their Heifer Asia and South Pacific Area colleagues when the earthquake struck, so all are reported to be safe. Efforts continue to try to reach and to determine the impact on remaining staff, volunteers and project families in the area affected by the earthquake.
Thousands of emergency workers, including soldiers, rushed to reach the affected zones in the hilly region, but progress has been impeded because huge mountain chunks have sheared off and fallen into valleys, blocking roads and making emergency work difficult. Water and power lines have also been cut, making concise communications with the most affected areas difficult.
Residents of communities as far away as 190 miles reported feeling the quake, which struck an area that is mountainous and where architecture is mainly of stone or brick, so earthquakes can be especially devastating.
Saturdays earthquake is also very close to the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake Area, where Heifer China has been implementing a rehabilitation project since 2008/2009, so its likely that many families there were affected in some way by the most recent temblor. More than 87,000 people were killed in that disaster.
Heifer International is working closely with colleagues at Heifer China to determine the whereabouts and safety of staff, volunteer and families, and exploring how the organization might help provide long-term rehabilitative and restorative support to families and others once the emergency response period has passed and the situation is more stable.