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Shock, despair, hope

School investigation

A rescuer arranges schoolbags for parents to claim. The bags were found in the debris of a school in Shifang in southwestern China's Sichuan province Thursday. The government is investigating why so many school buildings collapsed after the quake, killing hundreds or even thousands of children. Beijing promised to mete out harsh punishment if wrongdoing was involved. "If quality problems do exist in the school buildings, we will deal with the persons responsible strictly with no toleration," Ha Jin, an official with the Ministry of Education, told the state-run press.


In the town of Beichuan, piles of broken concrete rise seven stories high. People cry out the names of missing relatives and rescue workers shout, "Is anyone there? Is anyone there?" On Friday, the answers came in faint taps on concrete or muffled cries. Five volunteers dug with their hands and shovels for more than four hours, freeing a middle-aged woman from a crumpled apartment building. The woman, too weak to speak, was followed by another — and another. More than 160 people were found, the government said, and they were rushed away on stretchers — bruised, bleeding and covered in dust — about 100 hours after the massive quake struck. Others were freed elsewhere in the disaster area. A teenage student was pulled from the wreckage of her school by five volunteers who heard her tapping. The girl shielded her eyes from the sun when she emerged, wan and quiet, said Xu Tao, a volunteer. Gong Tianxiu, 40, was discovered alive Thursday in the rubble of a bank after being buried for 73 hours with her right leg caught under a boulder. With no large-scale equipment available, rescue workers, to save her life, passed her a saw that she used to cut off her own leg.

By the numbers


Official death toll late Friday.




Death toll China says it expects.


at least, people still buried in rubble, according to officials.


People living within a 60-mile radius of the epicenter,

according to a University

of Michigan study.


Classrooms that collapsed

in the quake Monday.


Apartments and homes

damaged or destroyed

in Sichuan province.


Soldiers and police deployed

in the recovery effort.


Amount allocated by

the Chinese government

for earthquake relief.


Amount China has received

in donated money and goods for rescue efforts.


Amount in losses of both insured and uninsured property, said AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe risk modeling firm.


Damage from a magnitude-5.5 aftershock — one of dozens of strong tremors since the devastating quake Monday — was a temporary setback to the mammoth relief operation in central China. Repair crews were rapidly restoring mobile phone services and unblocking roads within four hours, state media reported.


Many left in Beichuan or those who came back to search for lost family have steeled themselves for the deaths of their loved ones. "I've called her countless times, but there's no answer. Now the phone is dead," said Zhang Mingfeng, who traveled from the nearby city of Jiangyou to look for her sister, whose office is now a heap of brick and twisted metal, speckled by books and green metal filing cabinets.

In Yinghua, people scavenged the ruins for food and other usable items. In one section, six bodies covered in quilts lay on mattresses or bed frames. "It's no use," said one volunteer as he searched fruitlessly for survivors. "This is a city of the dead."

An air force unit reached Yinchanggou, a scenic spot in the mountains north of the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu, finding landslides had swept away rustic small hotels. "There are several hundred hotels … probably 800 in all. They are all rubble now," Cai Weisu, an air force official said. Most of the dead are tourists, he said.

Times wires

Shock, despair, hope 05/16/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:30pm]
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