Bodies covered with sheets lined the streets Tuesday as rescue workers dug through schools and homes turned into rubble by China’s worst earthquake in three decades in a search for more victims. The official death toll rose to nearly 12,000, and thousands remained missing.
But hope that many survivors would be found was slim. Buildings were knocked down on every block in some cities, and corpses were laid out in the street and in schoolyards.
Only 58 people were extricated from demolished buildings across the quake area so far, China Seismological Bureau spokesman Zhang Hongwei told the official Xinhua.
One of the worst earthquakes to hit China in three decades killed nearly 9,000 people Monday, trapped about 900 students under the rubble of their school and caused a toxic chemical leak, state media reported.
The 7.9-magnitude earthquake devastated a hilly region of small cities and towns in central China. The official Xinhua News Agency said 8,533 people died in Sichuan province and more than 200 others were killed in three other provinces and the mega-city of Chongqing.
Here is the report “China Sends Troops to Sichuan as Quake Kills 10,000 ” on Bloomberg.com:
“The death toll and damage are more serious than we expected and we need more people here to help,” Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said early today at disaster relief headquarters in Dujiangyan, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the epicenter, in comments broadcast on state television.
– Reports have said 900 school students were buried alive at Juyuan Middle School in Chongqing, according to The Australian:
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck in the middle of the afternoon – when classes and offices were full. Xinhua News Agency said at least four ninth-grade students were killed when the building collapsed.
The agency said 50 of the 900 trapped students had been killed. Photographs showed cranes trying to move rubble from the ruins of the school in Juyuan, about 100km from the epicentre in Wenchuan county in Sichuan province.
Xinhua said its reporters saw buried teenagers struggling to break loose from under the rubble of the three-storey school, “while others were crying out for help”.
– Observers are also making inevitable comparisons to the 1976 Tangshan earthquake and the perceived connections between natural disasters and the “mandate of heaven” in Chinese history. From The Times:
At a magnitude of 7.8 the ‘76 quake was enormous, causing widespread damage even in the Chinese capital, where dozens also died. That tremor triggered a furore of rumours that it was an omen of future disaster. Less than two months later Chairman Mao Zedong was dead.
Today’s disaster near the town of Wenchuan in China’s southwest today also measured 7.8 in magnitude.
– NPR reporters are in Chengdu preparing for a week of special reports from the region. Listen to reporting by Melissa Block that is interrupted as the earthquake strikes, and read the reporters’ blog from Chengdu.
– See images and video of the devastation here.