Relief Groups Get Moving as China Quake Toll Passes 600

Christian organizations are accessing the situation in China's Qinghai province after a series of strong quakes – the largest of which was magnitude 6.9 – left more than 600 dead and 9,000 hurt in the mountainous Tibetan area of western China.

Aid group World Vision, for one, was scheduled to dispatch a team of three aid workers from Beijing and other parts of China to the quake-stricken Qinghai province on Thursday to participate in assessments of the damage at the invitation of the government.

According to Meimei Leung, leader of World Vision's assessment team, adequate shelter and warm clothing for children and families is a key concern, as average temperatures in the area have been hovering between -3 to 14 degrees Celsius.

Hygiene, medical and other health needs may be a critical area of need that World Vision can help fill, Leung added, based on early conversations with the Qinghai arm of the China Charity Federation, the government group that coordinates with aid agencies.

China's Ministry of Civil Affairs says it is planning to send 5,000 tents, 50,000 quilts and 50,000 winter jackets to the affected areas.

"Based what we learn on the ground, we will be moving quickly to meet the needs of children, particularly to help them establish a normal routine again and stay clear of dangerous rubble," reported Leung.

Also scheduled to assess the situation in the affected area was Amity Foundation, which planned to send a six-person assessment team on Thursday. The organization, which has ties to Action by Churches Together (ACT) and Church World Service (CWS), has reportedly been in close contact with local partners in the area since immediately after the earthquake.

The director of the China Association for Science and Technology of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture told Amity Foundation that Jiegu – the town 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the epicenter of the largest quake – has many collapsed houses.

"Local government is rushing to save people. Casualties are not clear," the official reported. "Since the earthquake and many aftershocks have endangered the local Changu Reservoir, people are evacuating to the mountain. And currently local temperature is around 2-3 Celsius degrees."

According to local partners of Amity Foundation in the affected area, over 80 percent of the houses in the county have collapsed.

Like other aid groups, Amity Foundation reports that temporary shelter, clothing, quilts, food and drinking water and medicine are what is immediately needed right now.

CWS, as a member of the ACT Alliance, said Thursday that it will support the response and rehabilitation efforts by the Amity Foundation.

ACT, a global alliance of churches and related agencies, will also be appeal for funds on Amity Foundation's behalf.