EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 20, 2010

China to hold day of mourning for quake victims


BEIJING, China (AP) — China announced a national day of mourning to be held Wednesday for victims of a devastating quake in a remote Tibetan region, as the death toll rose above 2,000.

National flags will fly at half-staff across the country and at its embassies and consulates overseas, marking one week since the magnitude 6.9 temblor hit, China's Cabinet announced Tuesday. All public entertainment will be suspended as well.

Chinese officials said the death toll in remote Yushu county in western Qinghai province, high on the Tibetan plateau, rose to 2,039, while more than 12,000 people were hurt. Another 200 people remain missing.

Relief efforts could be hindered by rain that was expected Tuesday on the high-altitude region. Sleet, wind, and light snow are forecast for the next three days, said Guo Yinxiang, spokeswoman for the Qinghai Metereological Bureau.

Three people were rescued Monday, including a 4-year-old girl and an elderly woman who survived under the rubble for almost a week in China because relatives used bamboo poles to push water and rice to them until rescuers pulled them out.

The rescue of Wujian Cuomao, 68, and Cairen Baji, 4, from a crumbled home in a village about 13 miles (20 kilometers) from the hardest-hit town of Jiegu was hailed by state media as a miracle and repeatedly played on television news broadcasts.

Relief workers also freed a Tibetan woman named Ritu from the rubble of a hillside house, state broadcaster China Central Television reported. Half her body had been trapped by the debris, the report said, but her vital signs were stable.

In Jiegu, thousands of Tibetan Buddhist monks picked at rubble with shovels, performed funeral rites and threw food to survivors from the backs of trucks.

Relief and reconstruction work accelerated, with power and telecommunications services largely restored and aid convoys arriving in droves.

Convoys of military supply trucks were at a standstill, backed up for miles (kilometers) on the main road heading 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 a two-lane highway that is the only connection between Jiegu and the provincial capital of Xining, the nearest big city.

The Chinese government has poured in aid to the remote Tibetan region, where residents have frequently chafed under Chinese rule. Tibetan anger over political and religious restrictions and perceived economic exploitation by the majority Han Chinese have sometimes erupted in violence.