Rescue continues as quake death toll rises

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Search and rescue work continued Sunday as more than 200 people were confirmed dead or missing from Saturday's devastating earthquake in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

As of Sunday noon, more than 800 officers and soldiers from Sichuan and Chongqing's fire departments reached all nine townships in Baoxing, a county which was isolated by the 7.0-magnitude quake, according to sources with the Fire Department of the Ministry of Public Security.

Rescue and relief supplies such as life detection equipment, tools, tents and raincoats have been transported to the isolated county by two military helicopters, the sources said.

So far, 26 people in Baoxing were confirmed dead and about 2,500 were injured, county head Ma Jun told Xinhua on Sunday morning.

He said the earthquake damaged almost every house in Baoxing, with a population of 58,000, including homes that had been built after the devastating quake in 2008.

Water, electricity and gas supplies were all cut off, said Ma.

As of noon, more than 1,000 injured people have been sent to the local hospital in Lingguang Township, Baoxing County, said Li Ming, director of Baoxing's health bureau. However, transport of the injured encountered difficulties as the road linking Lingguan and outside places were blocked.

Eleven critically-injured survivors had been carried out of the quake-flattened Lingguan town, and more than 20 others were waiting to be airlifted.

Many local residents spent the night outdoors, short of food, water and clothing, and there were not enough tents for families. People were afraid of returning to their ramshackle homes to get supplies due to constant aftershocks.

"The top priority is to save lives," said Ma. "Meanwhile, we'll resettle the residents and reopen roads."

A team of electricians from the Sichuan power company were airlifted to Baoxing County Saturday night, hoping to restore power as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, more than 700 rescuers hiked to Lingguan town as of Sunday morning.

Xinhua reporters walked and arrived at Baosheng Township, another seriously affected area of Lushan on Sunday morning. All the homes in Baosheng are not fit for habitation any more and local power and communication were completely cut off after the quake.

Four people died and one is still missing in Baosheng, said Li Maojun, party chief of Baosheng County, adding that 144 people were injured in the quake, 14 of whom are in serious condition.

As of 11:30 a.m., the rock-blocked road linking neighboring Taiping Township to the town has reopened after rescue efforts by 40 armed police officers.

But, tents, food and water are still needed in Baosheng.

The quake shook Lushan County in Ya'an, a city near the provincial capital Chengdu, at 8:02 a.m. Beijing time Saturday.

Premier Li Keqiang arrived at the quake zone on the same day and told rescuers to waste no time and save as many lives as possible.

As of Sunday morning, water had been drained off from the two reservoirs in Lushan County, which suffered cracks and leakage and had posed a threat to people living in the lower reaches, to ensure the local residents' safety, according to a Lushan County government statement.

Near the quake epicenter of Longmen Township, which has reported the largest number of casualties so far, residents and rescuers had a sleepless night. Relief supplies were still on the way, as roads linking Ya'an City proper to the epicenter were congested.

Yang Jian, a native of Longmen who works in Chengdu, hiked more than 10 hours home and joined the team of volunteers shortly after his arrival.

His family's three-story home was damaged and a 15-year-old cousin was killed. Yang's legs were swollen from the hiking. "I'll try to save lives and when I end up in danger someday I might get the help I need too. Kindness is always mutual."

Two trucks of supplies from Chengdu's Red Cross arrived at 4 a.m. "We drove for 12 hours to bring 106 tents and 100 quilts," said Jiang Zhongfa, a relief officer.

Wenchuan County, the epicenter of the 2008 quake, sent a team of 150 rescuers to Longmen Saturday, including 20 field specialists experienced in saving lives from debris and mountains, an expertise they learned five years ago.

More than 30 medical workers from the Longmen Township Hospital also had a sleepless night, keeping an eye on the injured and waiting for potential emergency cases. "The critically injured patients were sent away to larger hospitals during the day," said Zhang Ling, a nurse. "But we need to take good care of those who have stayed."

Cai Kunjun hitchhiked from Chengdu to Lushan at midnight. The 34-year-old said he was making up for his absence during the Wenchuan quake. "I was in the southern province of Guangdong that year and was unable to provide any help."

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