SINGAPORE: Satellite images of China’s central city of Wuhan are almost bereft of cars and people, in a dramatic illustration of how successful its quarantine efforts have been in convincing residents of the epicentre of a new virus outbreak to stay home.
Lying on the banks of the Yangtze River and historically prone to devastating floods, Wuhan sprawls over 8,500 square kilometres (3,300 square miles) – five times the size of Greater London – and includes rural areas as well as a large urban zone.
Authorities have all but shut down the city of 11 million, which is a major transport hub, at what is normally the busiest time of year – the Lunar New Year holidays – when millions of people travel home to visit their families.
A Jan. 28 image of the red arches and suspension cables of a bridge across the key Yangtze waterway shows its roadway deserted of vehicles, glimpsed in a Jan. 12 image as a surge of white rectangles flooding across the artery.
The later image also reveals the absence of parked vehicles in surrounding streets threading between neighbourhoods of red-roofed homes and towering skyscrapers, and even the ships in the brown waters of the river, visible earlier, are now missing.
A similar Jan. 28 picture taken from high above the city’s usually crowded train station is devoid of the trains and cars that indicate human activity, although significant details in the picture are obscured by white puffs of cloud.
Passengers at Wuhan’s train station slowed to a trickle, media have said, with millions in surrounding cities virtually stranded, after public transport networks were shut to stop the spread of the virus, believed to have originated at a market illegally selling wildlife.
Now, with the death toll from the epidemic at 170 in China, with 7,711 infections, concern is growing that the strict travel curbs will leave thousands of factory workers in the world’s second largest economy struggling to return to work next week after the holidays.