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Over 40,000 Dead In China Quake As Full Horror Emerges

More than 30,000 missing in one quake-hit city in China: report
More than 30,000 people were missing or out of reach in the city of Shifang, near the epicentre of a powerful earthquake that struck southwest China, state press reported Wednesday. The death toll in the city has climbed above 2,500, Xinhua news agency reported, citing local government. This represents a sharp increase from earlier estimates of 2,300 trapped and 600 killed in the city. The 7.9-magnitude earthquake hit the southwestern province of Sichuan on Monday afternoon. Rescue teams who ploughed into the quake's stricken epicentre near Shifang reported whole towns all but wiped off the map, spurring frantic efforts to bring emergency relief to the survivors. The quake has killed more than 14,000 people so far, but the number is expected to rise as thousands more are reported missing and buried under rubble. In Shifang, which is about 50 kilometres from the epicentre, more than 10,000 people were injured, Xinhua reported, and the total material loss was estimated at 40 billion yuan (6 billion dollars). Two chemical plants in the city were destroyed by the earthquake, causing the leak of 80 tonnes of ammonia and forcing more than 6,000 people to be evacuated, Xinhua said. But a city official told Xinhua the leak had been contained and had not caused any deaths.
by Staff Writers
Dujiangyan, China (AFP) May 15, 2008
More than 40,000 people were dead, missing or buried under rubble in China's southwest, officials said Wednesday, as the full horror of its devastating earthquake began to emerge.

Rescue teams who punched into the quake's stricken epicentre reported whole towns all but wiped off the map, spurring frantic efforts to bring emergency relief to the survivors.

Planes and helicopters air-dropped supplies, 100 troops parachuted into a county that had been cut off, and rescuers in cities and towns across Sichuan province fought to pull the living and the dead from the debris.

But the overwhelming message that came back from this southwestern province was that only now is a picture slowly beginning to form of the epic scale of Monday's 7.9-magnitude quake.

State media quoted Sichuan vice governor Li Chengyun saying that based on "incomplete" figures, 14,463 people were confirmed dead in the province as of mid-afternoon Wednesday.

Nearly 26,000 were buried in rubble, he added, while Xinhua corrected its earlier report of more than 14,000 missing to just 1,400 -- although even that does not take into account new details emerging almost by the hour.

Late Wednesday, Xinhua, citing local government, reported that more than 30,000 people were missing or out of reach in the city of Shifang, near the quake's epicentre, and the death toll there had climbed above 2,500.

Far beyond the numbers is the human tragedy behind China's worst quake in a generation as rescue teams claw through twisted metal and concrete.

They were looking for people like He Xinghao, 15, whose lifeless body was pulled from the debris of a school close to the epicentre.

Like many other Chinese of his age, strict population policies had made him an only child, and he was showered with affection by his family.

"He was such a good and well-behaved boy. He always did his homework," said his aunt, Ge Mi, as fresh tears flowed from her reddened eyes.

It was a scene repeated across Sichuan -- a province often better known to foreigners for its endangered giant pandas.

The destruction around the epicentre in remote Wenchuan county is massive, with whole mountainsides sheared off, highways ripped apart and building after building levelled.

Cries for help were heard from a flattened school in Yingxiu, where people tried to dig out survivors with their bare hands, state media said.

"The losses have been severe," Wang Yi, who heads an armed police unit sent into the epicentre zone, was quoted as saying by Sichuan Online news site.

"Some towns basically have no houses left. They have all been razed to the ground."

At least 7,700 people were feared dead in the town of Yingxiu alone, Xinhua quoted a local official as saying.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said 100,000 military personnel and police had been mobilised in what is an all-out nationwide relief effort. "Time is life," he urged rescuers.

Aircraft flew dozens of sorties to drop tonnes of food and relief aid into the worst-hit zone, much of it cut off by landslides and road closures.

As well as Yingxiu, CCTV television said air drops were also made in nearby Mianyang, Mianzhu and Pengzhou, while helicopters flew to Wenchuan with food, drinks, tents, communications equipment and other supplies.

On the only paved road in, stunned survivors trekking from Yingxiu -- some carrying corpses -- passed anxious relatives walking in the opposite direction looking for loved ones.

Amid the fear there were moments of joy, like for Li Xiaoping, who was apart from his wife Tang Zizhen when the quake struck.

"Life or death, I'll never leave her again," he told AFP.

Many thousands of others are homeless, living and sleeping under makeshift plastic shacks propped up by wood and bamboo. As well as the grief, there was also some frustration at the overwhelmed relief effort.

World powers including the United States, European Union and United Nations have offered money and expertise, and Pope Benedict XVI called for prayers to be said.

However, China rebuffed offers to deploy foreign search and rescue experts, saying conditions were "not yet ripe," citing damage to transport.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's leg of the Beijing Olympic torch relay in the eastern province of Jianxi began with a minute's silence.

Early Thursday Xinhua quoted a seismologist affiliated to the China Earthquake Administration as saying Monday's quake was comparable in scale and power to the Tangshan earthquake in northern Hebei Province 1976.

It claimed 242,000 lives.

earlier related report
China quake toll soars as full horror begins to emerge
The full horror of the devastating China earthquake began to emerge Wednesday as rescuers discovered whole towns all but wiped off the map, pushing the death toll well above 20,000.

Military and police teams punched into the heart of the disaster zone, with 100 troops parachuting into a county that was previously cut off while planes and helicopters air-dropped emergency supplies.

But the message that came back from this mountainous corner of southwestern Sichuan province was that town after town was flattened by the 7.9-magnitude quake that struck two days ago.

The death toll has soared well above 20,000, but that toll is rising by the hour as more information comes in from stricken communities.

"The losses have been severe," Wang Yi, who heads an armed police unit sent into the epicentre zone, was quoted as saying by Sichuan Online news site.

"Some towns basically have no houses left. They have all been razed to the ground."

At least 7,700 people died in the small town of Yingxiu alone, state media cited a local government official as saying, with only 2,300 surviving.

Across Sichuan, countless thousands more people are missing or buried under the rubble of shattered homes, schools and factories.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said 100,000 military personnel and police had been mobilised, indicating the epic scale of the country's worst earthquake in a generation.

The air drop started with planes and helicopters flying dozens of sorties, dropping tonnes of food and relief aid into the worst-hit zone, most of it cut off from the outside world by landslides and road closures.

The destruction around the epicentre in remote Wenchuan county is massive, with whole mountainsides sheared off, highways ripped apart and building after building levelled.

Rescue teams have been seen pulling bodies and badly injured survivors out of the ruins.

As well as Yingxiu, CCTV television said air drops were also made in nearby Mianyang -- where the death toll jumped to nearly 5,500 -- as well as Mianzhu and Pengzhou.

Helicopters also flew to Wenchuan with food, drinks, tents, communications equipment and other supplies.

The rescue effort has been badly disrupted since Monday by heavy rain, and the Meteorological Authority forecasting more later in the week, raising the risk of fresh landslides.

Amid the setbacks, the nation focused on the precious minutes going by for those who were buried under rubble but may have survived.

Cries for help were heard from a flattened school in Yingxiu, where people were forced to try and dig out survivors with their hands, state media said.

"The situation in Yingxiu is even worse than expected," one local official said.

In towns and villages across a swathe of Sichuan, heart-rending scenes were played out as grief-stricken families searched for missing loved ones.

In the city of Mianzhu, where at least 3,000 died, rescuers picked through twisted metal and concrete trying to find people whose voices could be heard under the rubble.

"My younger brother is in there," 42-year-old Li -- his eyes bloodshot from sleep deprivation -- said next to a heap that was once a bank.

The local disaster relief headquarters said rescuers had been able to pull 500 people alive out of the debris of collapsed buildings, but 20,000 in three outer villages were still out of reach.

Wednesday's leg of the Olympic torch relay in eastern Jianxi province began with a minute's silence before the runners set off.

Organisers of the Beijing Olympics said they would scale down the relay as the torch makes it way to the capital for the summer Games, a further knock to its troubled round-the-world journey after earlier protests over Tibet.

World powers including the United States, European Union and United Nations as well as the International Olympic Committee have rallied round with offers of help.

China welcomed the offers but said conditions were "not yet ripe" to allow in foreign rescue teams, citing damage to transport links.

A Japanese foreign ministry official in charge of emergency aid said Japan offered rescue teams with sniffer dogs, but China had made no request.

US President George W. Bush and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao discussed the disaster by telephone, with Washington offering half a million dollars in initial disaster aid.

earlier related report
Towns in China quake zone 'razed to ground': state media
Some towns near the epicentre of China's huge earthquake have been 'razed to the ground' with no houses left standing, a People's Armed Police official was quoted by state media saying Wednesday.

"The losses have been severe. Some towns basically have no houses left. They have all been razed to the ground," Wang Yi, head of an armed police unit sent into the disaster zone, was quoted as saying by Sichuan Online news site.

Wang said "some" of the eight towns in Wenchuan county at the epicentre of the 7.9-magnitude earthquake had suffered the heavy damage.

He did not specify exactly how many towns had been flattened by the quake that struck on Monday but was quoted as saying they "include" the towns Yingxiu, Xuankou, and Wolong.

"Mountain villages in the surrounding area have also been basically razed to the ground," he added.

He said there had been at least 337 deaths in the area but that relief teams were still calculating the toll.

Earlier state media reports in Wednesday said at least 7,700 people had died in Yingxiu alone.

Only 2,300 people in Yingxiu town survived Monday's quake, local government official He Biao was quoted by Xinhua news agency saying.

The town has a population of about around 10,000, according to state media.

More than 1,000 of the survivors in Yingxiu were seriously injured, the report said.

Officially more than 12,000 people have been killed in the quake, but this toll is expected to rise dramatically once the full devastation from hard-to-reach areas such as Yingxiu is confirmed.

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PLA rides to the rescue again in China quake
Beijing (AFP) May 14, 2008
The People's Liberation Army dropped food and paratroopers into quake-shattered areas of China on Wednesday, the latest in a long history of disaster-relief missions by the world's largest armed force.







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