China Quake Death Toll Rises to Nearly 10,000
Death toll in China earthquake rises to nearly 10,000 while untold numbers remain trapped
A powerful earthquake toppled buildings, schools and chemical plants Monday in central China, killing about 10,000 people and trapping untold numbers in mounds of concrete, steel and earth in the country's worst quake in three decades.
The 7.9-magnitude quake devastated a region of small cities and towns set amid steep hills north of Sichuan's provincial capital of Chengdu. Striking in midafternoon, it emptied office buildings across the country in Beijing and could be felt as far away as Vietnam.
As Tuesday dawned, rescuers were frantically searching for more survivors, but rain was compounding the difficulty. Premier Wen Jiabao, who flew to the region, said rain was forecast for the next several days.
Snippets from state media and photos posted on the Internet underscored the immense scale of the devastation. In the town of Juyuan, south of the epicenter, a three-story high school collapsed, burying as many as 900 students and killing at least 50, the official Xinhua news agency said. Photos showed people using cranes, mechanical hoists and their hands to remove slabs of concrete and steel.
Buried teenagers struggled to break free from the rubble, "while others were crying out for help," Xinhua said. Families waited in the rain near the wreckage as rescuers wrote the names of the dead on a blackboard, Xinhua said.
Parents of the dead students built makeshift religious altars at the site, resting the corpses on any available piece of plywood or cardboard, and burning paper money and incense in a traditional honor for their child in the afterlife, according to NPR's Melissa Block.
The earthquake hit one of the last homes of the giant panda at the Wolong Nature Reserve and panda breeding center, in Wenchuan county, which remained out of contact, Xinhua said.
In Chengdu, it crashed telephone networks and hours later left parts of the city of 10 million in darkness.
"We can't get to sleep. We're afraid of the earthquake. We're afraid of all the shaking," said 52-year-old factory worker Huang Ju, who took her ailing, elderly mother out of the Jinjiang District People's Hospital. Outside, Huang sat in a wheelchair wrapped in blankets while her mother, who was ill, slept in a hospital bed next to her.
The overall death toll increased to about 10,000, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday. It said nearly 10,000 people died in central China's Sichuan province alone and 300 others in three other provinces and the mega-city of Chongqing.
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