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China quake toll 'passes 1,000'

April 23, 2010

BBC News

The number of people known to have been killed by a massive quake in China's Qinghai province has risen to 1,144, officials say.

Another 417 are still missing in the remote mountainous region and 11,744 have been injured, a rescue spokesman told the Xinhua news agency.

Thousands have been left homeless, with many having to sleep outdoors in freezing temperatures.

Premier Wen Jiabao has promised "all-out effort" to rebuild the area.

Heavy lifting equipment began arriving on Friday in the remote Himalayan region by road from hundreds of kilometres away.

Food, tents and medical supplies are arriving too but rescue workers say there is a critical need for further supplies.

An estimated 15,000 houses have been destroyed in Yushu county, leaving thousands of people homeless people and casualties waiting for help.

Rescue joy

Soldiers, civilian rescue workers and Buddhist monks have been using pickaxes, shovels and their bare hands to pick through the rubble for survivors.

"For us monks, the most important thing is life," said Danchujiasi, a monk who travelled to the scene from neighbouring Sichuan province.

"We have come here to help rescue people. So many people have died, and we want to save the ones still living."

A teacher at a school in Yushu county said he and other staff members had been digging students out of the rubble with their bare hands.

"We didn't have any kind of tools. We couldn't lift the bigger rocks so we found some ropes and pulled them," Chen Guangming told the Associated Press news agency.

"This way we were able to pull out five. Three of them are still alive."

Tens of thousands of people were injured in the quake, and one doctor in Jiegu said he had lost track of how many people he had treated.

"They just keep coming one after the other," said Myima Jiaba, working at a makeshift hospital in the town's sports stadium.

"Right now, what we need is a lot of medicine. We need antiseptics and antibiotics. And overall, we need more tents and food, and sanitation."

Power down

The monks have also been helping to collect bodies and prepare them for funerals.

At a foothill under the main monastery of Jiegu township, monks chanted Tibetan Buddhist mantras in front of piles of dead, Reuters news agency said.

"I'd say we've collected a thousand or more bodies here," said Lopu, a monk.

"Many of the bodies you see here don't have families or their families haven't come looking for them, so it's our job to take good care of them."

Rescuers in Yushu, which lies at about 4,000m (13,000ft), are facing freezing weather and high altitude.

Ninety-seven percent of Yushu's population is ethnic Tibetan, and state media said that 500 interpreters were being sent to aid rescuers.

The quake, which struck on Wednesday morning at the shallow depth of 10km (six miles), knocked out phone and power lines, and triggered landslides, blocking vital roads.

Premier Wen Jiabao visited the affected area on Thursday and Friday, promising "all-out efforts" to rebuild the devastated region.

He said the people would "overcome the disaster and improve national unity in fighting the calamity".
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