China quake deaths exceed 40,000

Warning of major temblor sends residents fleeing hours after mass public mourning.

    Monday's public mourning had never before been accorded to anyone but a senior leader [Reuters]

    A government warning of a major aftershock sent jittery residents running into darkened streets on Monday night, abruptly ending the relative peace of an unprecedented display of mourning a week after the magnitude 8 quake.
    Quake-weary residents took pillows, blankets and chairs from homes into the open or slept in cars after a statement from the National Seismology Bureau was read on television warning that there was a "rather great" chance of a magnitude 6-7 aftershock on Monday or Tuesday.


    In video

    Homeless cramped in temporary shelters

    One family's loss in
    Sichuan earthquake

    Aftershocks hit rescue effort

    The warning exacerbated uneasiness in the region, which has been shaken by more than 20 aftershocks of magnitude 5 or above since the May 12 quake.


    An aftershock on Monday night was measured at magnitude 5.2 by the US Geological Survey but no damage or injuries were reported.


    People in the provincial capital of Chengdu got in their cars and drove away from the quake zone.


    In Mianyang, closer to the quake zone, a hospital moved patients into the square outside the railway station.


    Collective mourning


    The fresh warning of aftershocks came hours after the world's most populous nation paused to mourn the dead in an observance never before accorded to anyone but a senior Chinese leader.


    In depth: China quake

    Map: Quake disaster zone

    Pictures: Quake leaves devastation

    China's fast response

    At 06:28 GMT on Monday - the exact moment one week ago when the deadly earthquake struck the southwestern province of Sichuan - three minutes' silence was observed.


    The silence was broken by the wail of air raid sirens and the blare of horns from cars, ships and trains to mark the beginning of China's official three day period of mourning for those killed in the earthquake.


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


    The government also ordered 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.


    The country's rescue workers have been hailed as heroes for saving more than 60,000 people over the past week.


    There is little indication how officials will 
    handle the five million displaced people [AFP]

    As the mourning period began on Monday, state media reported that more than 200 relief 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 highlighted the continued danger faced by teams racing against time to find survivors.


    Their efforts have turned largely from rescue to recovery and clearing up the tonnes of debris as the battered Sichuan province begins the task of rebuilding.


    Al Jazeera's Tony Cheng, reporting from the hard-hit town of Dujiangyan, said 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.


    More survivors rescued


    But a few survivors are still being pulled out alive from collapsed buildings.


    '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 is 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.

    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. 


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

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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