China mourns quake dead

Reports of fresh tragedies as aftershocks and heavy rainfall hamper recovery efforts.

Entire towns and cities at the heart of the disaster zone have been reduced to rubble [AFP]
Entire towns and cities at the heart of the disaster zone have been reduced to rubble [AFP]

As the mourning period began on Monday, state media reported that more than 200 recovery workers had been buried by landslides over the past two days in the disaster zone.


The official Xinhua news agency gave no details of where the incidents happened, but the report highlights the continued danger faced by relief teams racing against time to find survivors.


In video

Homeless cramped in temporary shelters

One family’s loss in
Sichuan earthquake

Aftershocks hit rescue effort

On Sunday, at least three people were killed in a 6.0-magnitude aftershock.


The aftershocks and heavy rain have put recovery crews on heightened alert, fearful further strong tremors could bring down already weakened buildings.


But while recovery efforts are switching to focus on clearing up the tonnes of debris, a few survivors are still being pulled out alive from collapsed buildings.


On Monday two women were brought out from the rubble of a coal mine in Beichuan county, one of the worst-hit regions.


A day earlier two men were found in the towns of Beichuan and Yingxiu, both in apparently good health.


Reports said at least 63 people were found alive across the region on Saturday.


Heightened alert


Sichuan has experienced more than 20 aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or above since the initial earthquake.


Al Jazeera’s Tony Cheng, reporting from the hard-hit town of Dujiangyan, said that a week after the quake there was little indication from the authorities as to how they would handle the estimated five million left homeless.


He said entire cities had been destroyed, and there was now an urgent need for long-term planning as survivors look to the task of rebuilding shattered communities.


‘Lucky’ number

China’s revision of the earthquake’s magnitude to 8.0 is likely to be noted by the superstitious.

Eight is a lucky number in China.

The Beijing Olympics are set to open on August 8, 2008  at 8:08pm.

Many on the internet have also commented that the earthquake itself took place exactly 88 days before the opening ceremony.

China on Sunday revised upwards the magnitude of the earthquake from 7.9 to 8.0.


Officials have also announced that the Olympic torch relay will be suspended during the mourning period.


Beijing Olympic organisers said in a statement on Sunday that the suspension would “express our deep mourning to the victims of the earthquake”.


The government is also ordering all flags be flown at half-staff and a halt to all public recreation activities.


The mourning period is the longest seen in China since the death of former leader Deng Xiaoping 11 years ago.


Rescue efforts


In depth: China quake

Map: Quake disaster zone

Pictures: Quake leaves devastation

China’s fast response

On Sunday the official People’s Daily newspaper urged a nationwide “battle” against the disaster amid a rush by volunteers.


“More than ever, people are aware that to win the battle against the devastating earthquake requires the contribution of the whole country,” the newspaper said in a commentary.


Flood threats from blocked rivers appeared to have eased, after three rivers overflowed without causing major problems, state media reported.


Xinhua quoted Liu Ning, engineer-in-chief with the ministry of water resources, as saying some facilities, such as reservoirs and hydroelectric stations, had been damaged but that no reservoirs burst.


Worries about possible flooding had earlier sent thousands of people fleeing the area.


More than 10,600 people are still listed as missing in dozens of towns and cities across Sichuan, Xinhua said, citing regional officials.


International aid


People continued to search for loved ones
despite fresh aftershocks [Reuters]

Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, urged rescue teams to reach remote villages, according to Xinhua.


The number of security forces helping victims has risen to almost 150,000, while the government has pledged cash payments of $715 to each family that lost a member.


But some residents in the earthquake-hit areas complained the government was not doing enough.


The Associated Press said that one of its reporters was stopped at a petrol station in Miangyang city on Sunday by a group of about 15 people appealing for help for their village, Xiushui.


“The government is doing nothing to help us,” said one man, handing over a note which said it had been signed “by the people of Xiushui”.


More than 200 rescuers from Japan, Russia, South Korea and Singapore have been searching alongside Chinese soldiers.


The authorities, meanwhile, are also battling to prevent the outbreak of disease, with the risks heightened by the rotting carcasses of 12.5 million livestock and poultry.


“Combating epidemics is the most urgent and the biggest task facing us right now,” Wei Chaoan, the vice-minister of agriculture, said on Saturday.


The World Health Organisation said that the lack of safe drinking water or proper waste disposal along with cramped conditions in temporary shelters was “conducive” to outbreaks.


“Preventing communicable disease outbreaks is the key public health issue now facing the People’s Republic of China,” the UN body said in a statement.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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