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Last Updated:  Monday, 3 March, 2003, 07:46 GMT
Snow hampers China quake relief
A Chinese Muslim woman with her grandchildren, sits outside their family home which collapsed and killed three family members
Thousands of people have been left homeless
Heavy snow and freezing temperatures have been hampering rescue efforts following last week's devastating earthquake in north-west China.

With day-time temperatures dropping as low as minus four degrees Celsius in Xinjiang province, officials are struggling to care for the hundreds of people made homeless in the quake.

Aid workers in Qiongkuerqiake township, the epicentre of the quake, said more than 16,000 people do not have proper shelter and the distribution of tents has been delayed by the snowfall over the weekend.

Almost 10,000 homes were levelled by last Monday's quake. At least 260 people died and more than 4,000 were injured.

"When the weather worsened, I was thinking, that's all they needed," said France Hurtubise, a Beijing-based Red Cross official

Even those who do have tents are finding the conditions difficult. By Monday, snow had turned to icy sleet and was expected to continue until at least Wednesday.

The affected area

"The tents aren't warm enough to protect the villagers," said a rescue team member posted in Qiongkuerqiake, surnamed Song, told the French news agency AFP.

"But they have enough clothes, and aid is coming from across the country," he said.

The 4,000 or so people who have been injured are also being treated in tents, because hospitals and clinics have collapsed.

But local media reported that there have been no epidemics, despite the primitive conditions.

The China News Service reported that many of the cases treated by emergency medical teams were induced by the shock caused by the tremor.

"Give them a bit of medicine, and cheer them up, and they're as happy as ever," one doctor told the news service.

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