LUSHAN, China, April 22 (Reuters) - Hundreds of survivors of a 6.6 magnitude earthquake that hit southwest China, killing nearly 200 people, pushed into traffic along a main road on Monday, waving protest signs, demanding help and shouting at police.
“We are in the open air here. No place to sleep, nothing to eat. No one is paying any attention to us,” said Peng Qiong, 45, a farmer in Chaoyang village on the outskirts of Lushan, near the epicentre.
China has poured resources into Sichuan since the early Saturday quake, including 1 billion yuan ($161.9 million) from central coffers for disaster relief and compensation. About 18,000 troops are in the area.
The earthquake killed at least 186 people and injured more than 11,000, state media said.
But while many have praised the government for its swift response, growing anger among some underscores the government’s challenge, magnified by the fact that Sichuan bore the brunt of a 7.9 earthquake in 2008 that killed nearly 70,000 people.
In some cases, roads closed to non-emergency traffic have been clogged with all kinds of government vehicles.
On the way to Baoxing, a heavily damaged area about 40 km (25 miles) from Lushan, idling ambulances, troop transporters, construction vehicles and tour buses for relief workers blocked both lanes of the road, making access possible only on foot or by weaving motorcycles.
“NO CHOICE BUT PROTEST”
Tian Kuanqian surveyed a winding fissure that split the upper level of his house. For more than two days, the 40-year-old farmer has watched as emergency vehicles passed their wrecked village by.
“If they continue to ignore us like we are trivial, we will have no choice but to protest,” he said.
The back room hung of Tian’s house was torn from the building and perched on a steep slope. Inside, a poster of former revolutionary leader Mao Zedong hung above a collapsed wall. Tian’s family including elderly parents sleep on the ground.
“It’s been three days and we haven’t seen noodles or water. What we need are tents,” Tian said.
A police officer in Chaoyang trying to clam protesters on the road said the authorities were doing all they could.
“Our leaders have visited and we’re working getting these people food and water,” said the officer, who declined to give his name.
Mountainous terrain and poor infrastructure have made reaching victims difficult. The Xinhua news agency said aftershocks had triggered landslides that blocked a main road.
The damage to listed businesses in the area appeared limited. Toll road operator Sichuan Expressway said none of its roads were damaged, while motor-maker Dongfeng Electric said the quake did not cause any losses.
China Lumena New Materials Corp said none of its equipment in Sichuan had been damaged, while department store owner Maoye International said its subsidiary, Chengshang Group, whose principal business is in Sichuan, said all stores were operating normally.
In Zhongba village, part of Baoxing, residents said it took two days for help to arrive. When it did, supplies and tents were in short supply. Almost all buildings are damaged and many have collapsed.
Zhang Zhenghua, a 41-year-old farmer, said officials drove through the village on Monday and stopped briefly to apologise for the delay in help.
“The secretary mentioned subsidies to rebuild our homes. We hope they do what they say,” Zhang said. ($1 = 6.1776 Chinese yuan) (Writing by John Ruwitch; Editing by Robert Birsel)