Parliamentary question by Olivier Dupuis (NI) to the Commission and answer given by Mr Nielson on behalf of the Commission

Parliamentary questions
by Olivier Dupuis (NI) to the Commission
(26 February 2003)

Subject: Earthquake in East Turkestan

According to various sources, at least 257 people were killed and more than 1000 injured on Monday, 24 February when an earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale, ripped through a remote area in East Turkestan, flattening hundreds of buildings, including schools.

The earthquake rocked an area around Jiashi City in the western part of East Turkestan (Xinjiang region) at 10.03 a.m. Mr Li Qianghua, an official at the Beijing Seismological Bureau, confirmed the high death toll, blaming the poor quality of the structures in the quake-plagued area. The Xinhua press agency reported that more than 1000 buildings had collapsed in one village in Bachu County.

The earthquake had its epicentre some forty kilometres east of Jiashi City, which lies in the county of the same name, near the East Turkestan (Xinjiang) frontier with Kyrgyzstan and Tadjikistan. Other areas shaken by strong tremors included Artux County and Markit County and Kashi City, located about 55 kilometres east of the historic oasis city of Kashgar, which is still mostly populated by the Uighur.

What measures has the Commission already taken to provide immediate help to the people in the Jiashi region in East Turkestan? Does it also intend to provide financial aid for reconstruction?

Answer given by Mr Nielson
on behalf of the Commission
(23 April 2003)

The Commission manifested in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, with a press statement released on 24 February 2003, its intention of intervening in support of the victims in the province of Xingiang (China) through funding of the Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO).

However, a closer assessment of needs showed that such intervention was not necessary, as the Chinese Government seemed to be coping well with the situation. Of the same view was the International Federation of the Red Cross, which decided not to launch an international appeal for this earthquake. In fact, more than 6.000 soldiers and an additional 200 medical staff were immediately on task. In the first days, 9.000 large quilted tents were erected by the military, while more tents, food, medical supplies and clothes were sent to the area. The medical response continues to build up and at least three mobile hospitals are already operational and the number of medical personnel on site is now impressive. The authorities are tackling, at present, the issues of disease outbreak and the provision of clean water.

It needs to be underlined that the earthquake area is one of the most militarised zones in China and the government does not want foreigners in the area.

Nevertheless, one of ECHO's partners is working in the area and, if needed, some post-disaster assistance with regard to small-scale rehabilitation of schools, clinics, water and sanitation could be envisaged.

Regarding reconstruction, the Commission has not received any requests for financial support as yet.