By Kalsang Rinchen
Dharamsala, April 16 – Tibetans in exile claim that the Chinese government is understating the death toll in the earthquake that struck the remote Tibetan area of Yushu County (Kyegudo in the traditional Tibetan province of Kham) in Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province. The latest official figures put the death toll at 791 but the Tibetan exiles who have talked with people in Kyegudo say thousands have been killed and the toll is likely to shoot up.
Gyegu town, 4 months ago. Nearly 85 percent of what you see is now rubble.
Sources in Tibet have told the National Democratic Party of Tibet that the Chinese government’s rescue teams are concentrated in areas dwelled by elites and government officials, and the ordinary Tibetans are being neglected. “The Chinese rescue workers helped mainly at official Chinese buildings that had collapsed. Residents where predominantly Tibetans live did not receive immediate help,” a Yushu native has told the Radio Free Asia.
Hundreds of monks from various monasteries in the area are working amidst the rubble to pull out people trapped inside the debris. Monks are saying prayers near huge piles of dead bodies as they are being brought out of the debris.
Exile Tibetans accuse the Chinese government of publicising the rescue efforts and putting a lid on the actual death toll which the local Tibetans say is much higher than what is projected by the government.
The same source told RFA
that the troops were worried more about their own safety than rescuing the victims. “The troops cared more for their own safety than rescuing the victims,” he said, adding that “the Chinese media are not trustworthy. They are distorting information.”
“The devastation is immense, compared to the  Sichuan earthquake. The death toll could be in the thousands. Many people are still trapped under the rubble, and we are unable to pull them out,” a monk of Surmang monastery told RFA.
Monks from Surmang monastery, Sershul monastery, Sekar monastery, and a few other monasteries have joined the rescue and relief efforts.
The Chinese government has also put restriction on movement of people with all major roads to the disaster struck areas being sealed off by the troops making it hard for volunteers and journalists to get in for rescue work and independent assessment. The state run CCTV and Xinhua are the only media that are allowed in the area.