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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2862

Death Toll in China Earthuake Exceeds 12,000: Olympics not affected

Beijing, 14 May, ( buildings reduced to match wood and mountains of debris dotting the landscape marked the deadly earth quake that hit China this week, the worst in 30 years. Desperate attempts to rescue thousands still believed to be trapped inside collapsed buildings continued by thousands of Chinese. The toll of the dead and missing soared as rescue workers dug through piles of concrete. The official death toll climbed past 12,000 in Sichuan province, where emergency workers reached the epicenter of the massive quake as night fell according to latest reports. Soldiers were digging to get people out. About 2,300 of the 9,000 people of Yinxiu, a town near the epicenter in Wenchuan county, had been recovered the report said.

News agencies reported that 18,645 people were still buried in debris in and around Mianyang, a city about 60 miles east of the epicenter. Thousands were sleeping outdoors for two days fearing that after-shocks might occur, as is customary after a major quake. Using plastic sheeting they were huddled together as rain fell. People there spent a second night sleeping outside in the rain, some under striped plastic sheeting strung between trees. Electricity had failed in most areas and in a city of 700,000, and people were using candles. The plights of children were worse as they had to make do with bare necessities.

Reports quoted by the Sichuan Daily newspaper said on its Web site that more than 26,000 people were injured in the Mianyang area. The worse affected town of Beichuan to had to send people to Mianyang's sports stadium for food and shelter. The arrangements were generally fair considering the fact that this was one of the largest quakes in over two decades. Megaphones were being used telling people where they could get free rice porridge.

The six-story Beichuan Hotel sat listing, half its first story collapsed, a monument to the destruction spread far and wide. Treatment of the injured were taking place non-stop my medical teams in courtyards littered with broken furniture and rubble. There were a total of 1,000 students and teachers who lost their life just ten limes of the epicenter. A collapsed high school in Beichuan County-a six-story building reduced to a pile of rubble about two yards high showed the intensity of the destruction. Eighty percent of the buildings had collapsed in Beichuan alone. Reports also indicated that at another leveled school in the town of Juyuan, 900 students were feared dead. There was little prospect that many survivors would be found under the rubble.

Rain was impeding efforts and a group of paratroopers called off a rescue mission to the epicenter due to heavy storms. Thirty-one British tourists who were panda-watching in Wolong National Nature Reserve and initially reported missing were safe and in the provincial capital of Chengdu Tuesday night, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Kerry Zobor, the U.S.-based spokeswoman for the World Wildlife Fund, said they have not been able to contact the 12 WWF members visiting the reserve, or their tour operator. The communications in the area are still disrupted causing hardships in locating people. We're hoping to have an update by the end of the day,"

President Hu Jintao has assured the Chinese that everything would be done to help the people affected. Rescue operations were ordered put on an emergency footing immediately. Premier Wen Jiabao, who rushed to the area to oversee rescue efforts, talked to the pole and consoled them. His visit to the disaster scene was prominently featured on state TV, a gesture meant to reassure people that everything was being done to help the people.

"We will save the people," Wen said through a bullhorn to survivors as he toured the disaster scene, in footage shown on CCTV. "As long as the people are there, factories can be built into even better ones, and so can the towns and counties." Some 20,000 soldiers and police arrived in the disaster area with 30,000 more on the way by plane, train, trucks and even on foot, the Defense Ministry said.

Aftershocks rattled the region for a second day, sending people running into the streets in Chengdu. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the shocks between magnitude 4 and 6, some of the strongest since Monday's 7.9-magnitude quake.

Expressions of sympathy and offers of help poured in from the United States, Japan and the European Union, as well as India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Sri Lanka has decided to donate financially to help the victims besides articles of clothing and other material help. All major countries have pledged support. U.S. is offering an initial $500,000 in earthquake relief in anticipation of an appeal by the International Red Cross.

The epicenter is just south of some Tibetan mountain areas that saw anti-government protests earlier this year. Beijing Games organizers said the Olympic torch relay will continue as planned through the quake-affected area next month.

The Chinese government said it would welcome outside aid, and Russia was sending a plane with rescuers and supplies.

China's Ministry of Finance said it had allocated $123 million in aid for quake-hit areas.
The quake was China's deadliest since 1976, when 240,000 people were killed in the city of Tangshan, near Beijing in 1976. Financial analysts said the quake would have only a limited impact on the country's booming economy.

Chinese authorities have issued an urgent appeal for relief aid and workers in the region to complement the 17,000 People's Liberation Army troops already dispatched to the area.

- Asian Tribune -

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