I have heard from some of you who were concerned for my safety, so I wanted to send out a short note saying that I am ok. I live in the same province, but Xining is about 800 km north of the earthquake zone in Yushu, which is where I attended the Horse Festival in 2006. It's been a tense couple of days, with people waiting to hear word from family and friends who live in the area. All of my friends are ok, but most have lost friends and relatives.
Many who live in the region have lost everything, as 85% of the houses and buildings collapsed. Yushu is at 12,500 ft. elevation, with temperatures hovering around freezing. Since the earthquake hit early in the morning, many people are stranded outside without warm clothing or blankets. Tents, blankets, and medical supplies should make their way to the area in the next 24 hours. I think the latest news reports I've read put the death toll at around 600 with 10,000 injured, but the word I'm getting from folks down there is that the death toll is well over 1,000, including a four-storey schoolhouse that has yet to be excavated.
As it stands, the government seems to be responding quickly with rescue efforts, but damage to infrastructure is hindering their progress. The Yushu government issued a call for all trained medical personnel to come as quickly as possible, but there has been bureaucratic resistance in Xining to allowing foreigners on student visas to respond to this call. A large number of these medically trained expats are on student visas, so this resistance could have devastating effects. *Update - immediately after writing the last sentence, I heard from my friend, who is a nurse and student, and she was able to get permission to go. Hopefully more will have success tomorrow.
There is an organization here doing fantastic work on the Tibetan plateau called Plateau Perspectives . "P.P." is a non-profit team of scientists and medical personnel working with Tibetans in southern Qinghai on development initiatives (agricultural, educational, etc.) and environmental conservation. P.P. is (as of today) the ONLY non-profit organization that has been directly asked by the government to participate in the relief effort. There is a group that is heading out today from P.P. to start the advance work.
Last night, a friend created a website for P.P. to give daily updates on the earthquake. It is also set up to allow PayPal donations, if you want to give financially to the relief efforts. Will you take a moment and click on the following link that says "Yushu Earthquake Relief"?
Thank you for your concern, friends. Please keep the people of Yushu in your thoughts and prayers,