Survivors are still in a state of utter confusion, hours after the fatal earthquake, which hit northwest China's Qinghai Province Wednesday morning when people were leaving home for work or school.
The residents in Gyegu Town near the epicenter in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, southern Qinghai Province, recalled their fear and grief while in temporary tents, feeling the plateau's cold air bite.
Panic,fear and grief
Tezin Drolma felt the floor waving when she was about to leave her home in for work on Wednesday morning.
"My first instinct told me it was an earthquake," Tezin Drolma told Xinhua.
The quake rattled things on the table, and Tezin Drolma dashed back to the bedroom and carried her 2-year-old son, who was sleeping, out of the house.
"I did not even put any clothes on him," she said.
Drolma felt two tremors. The first at around 5:40 a.m. and the stronger second one came at around 7:40 a.m., she said.
Her family of five fled the two-storey house.
"I don't know what happened to the house as I have not returned home yet," she said. "Most of the earth and wood structured houses toppled.
"I saw bodies on the road," she recalled.
Another resident named Lungme and five members of her family were buried under the rubble of her home. "It was all so sudden. I had no time to react," she said.
She and four family members were dug out by her neighbors, Lungme said, "but my mother died."
"Eight people in one of my neighbor's family were all buried. They were all dead when they were found," she said.
A student at the Yushu Vocational School, where at least one third of the school buildings collapsed, said, "I know there were several students in the teaching building. Several bodies were found in the ruins, but the casualties are not known yet."
Lack of everything
As of 10 p.m., in one of the 40-odd tent in a playground of the prefecture's sports commission, 55-year-old Tsering Dorje was still in a coma in his wife's arms after his right arm was amputated.
"My husband was buried in the ruins. He was on the ground floor when the quake happened," said the wife in tears. The son held his father's left hand, fearing he would die.
The one-hour-operation was done in a tent. "We could not get him into hospital. Most of the hospitals had collapsed and others had become dangerous," said Karma Sherab, the doctor who did the operation for Tsering Dorje.
"The only thing we can do is to clean the wounds in a simple way or simply amputate instead of curing," Karma Sherab said.
A mother named Drolma showed her 20-year-old daughter's blooded face to the doctor and asked him for help.
The doctor could only show her his empty medical bag. "We lack everything. We lack medical alcohol, needles and anaesthetic," Karma said.
The temperature was 12 degrees Celsius during the day, dropping to 2 degrees Celsius in the evening and was expected to drop to 5 degrees below zero around midnight.
More than 80 percent of the houses in the quake-hit area had collapsed. There were only enough tents for about 3,500 survivors in the town with a population of 100,000 people.
More than 95 percent of the people need to look after themselves during the night. Residents need to find quilts and sleep in the playground or racecourse.
The town's only two hotels were destroyed during the quake and more than 100 people are still buried in ruins.
Many people tried to save the buried people with their hands or at best with spades as the town lacked proper rescue equipment.
Some residents had got their family members out of the town on motorcycles, cars, mini-buses and tractors during the day.
Supplies on the way
"We have not eaten anything for 12 hours," said Shi Huajie, a police officer of the prefecture who began to rescue people right after the quake.
"There is nothing to eat. The residents also have nothing to eat. We better just focus on rescuing," he said.
The first rescuing team of 99 members arrived at the scene at 2 p.m. with medicine, medical equipments, food and drinking water.
More than 5,000 additional rescuers, including soldiers and medical workers, have been dispatched to the quake-hit region, according to a news conference held by the Qinghai provincial government.
The China Earthquake Administration, the Red Cross Society of China, and authorities in other provincial-level regions, including Gansu, Sichuan, Tibet, Beijing and Guangdong, have also dispatched rescuers to Yushu.
The national earthquake rescue team with 30 members had arrived in Yushu late Wednesday, most of the team members had been sent to Sichuan after the fatal earthquake on May 12 2008.
As of 10 p.m., more than 800 rescuers from other provinces and regions had arrived in the town. Another 1,000 rescuers are ready to head to the affected area.
Tents, cotton-padded clothes, quilts, food, medicine, bulldozers, excavators and cranes are being rushed to the region from across the country.
More than 50,000 tents had been loaded on trains in central China's Henan Province and they will arrive in the town after 30 hours.
About 400 people died and 10,000 are injured after the 7.1-magnitude quake hit the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, which lies on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau at an altitude above 4,000 meters.
The quake also killed five people and injured one in neighboring Shiqu County, in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze, Sichuan Province.