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Three pulled out alive from rubble five days after Tibet quake

April 23, 2010

From The Times April 20, 2010 (AP)

Jane Macartney in Beijing

Battling freezing temperatures, snow flurries and high altitudes,
Chinese rescuers have pulled three survivors alive from the rubble more
than five days after an earthquake devastated a remote Tibetan community.

The most recent rescue came just after 6pm – or 130 hours or so after
the 7.1 magnitude tremor struck northwestern Yushu county – when a woman
was pulled out of the ruins of a hillside community.

The 34-year-old woman, named as Ripu, was found half-buried by rescuers
who have started a blanket search from the county town of Jiegu and into
isolated hillside settlements. She was in a stable condition and had
been rushed immediately to hospital.

The success came six hours after four-year-old Cairen Baiji and Wujian
Cuomao, 68, were freed from the wreckage of a mud-built house. The pair
had been trapped when it collapsed early on Wednesday morning.

Their lower bodies were buried by the packed earth but they were saved
because they had taken refuge under a bed. Relatives and neighbours had
been keeping them alive by sending in food and water through gaps in the
rubble with the help of bamboo poles, state broadcaster CCTV said.

A rescue team reached the village, about 20 kilometres (13 miles) from
the main county town of Jiegu early yesterday morning. They at once
began digging through the ruins for the two survivors. The pair were
brought out shortly before midday yesterday.

The white-haired woman, dressed in a long traditional chuba robe, waved
her arms as she was lifted onto a stretcher and loaded into an
ambulance. Her condition was described as critical.

The little girl was diagnosed with heart problems when she was finally
dug out and handed into the arms of waiting rescuers because of the
trauma of being trapped, but her condition had stabilised and doctors
said she just needed rest.

The death toll has now been raised to 1,944 with 216 still missing after
the deadliest tremor to strike China since an earthquake in 2008 killed
some 90,000 people living further east along the same fault line.

Some 1,000 of the dead were buried or cremated in mass funerary pyres at
the weekend. The fires were set by the hundreds of monks who live in
surrounding monasteries, or who have flocked to Yushu from surrounding
Tibetan regions, to help with the rescue work and to provide spiritual
comfort and physical aid to the injured and survivors.

Officials say 12,315 people have been injured, of whom 1,134 were in
serious condition and had mostly been flown out to larger hospitals
elsewhere in China.

The main town of Jiegu, centre of a community of about 100,000 people
has been razed, and thousands of troops are racing to put up tents for
the homeless with temperatures falling well below freezing at night.
They are rushing to provide sufficient food and water to people
shivering and traumatised at an altitude of 4,000 metres (13,000 ft).

Convoys of military supply trucks were at a standstill, backed up for
miles on the main two-lane road headed into town. At a supply depot set
up on the town’s edge, huge stacks of bottled water were piled up
outside a warehouse.

More relief goods rumbled past mountainside hamlets where residents
pitched government-provided tents along the rutted road that is the only
connection between Jiegu and the provincial capital of Xining.

Bedraggled survivors streamed from their tents and chased the trucks,
the women scooping bread rolls and packets of instant noodles into the
aprons of their traditional fur-lined robes.
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