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Situation at quake epicenter worse than expected
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[Watch video] The situation in Yingxiu Town of Wenchuan County, the epicenter of Monday's massive earthquake, was worse than expected with traffic cut off and children buried in debris, according to local government officials who treked into the area.

Only 2,300 people out of the town's population of more than 10,000 survived the quake, and more than 1,000 of the survivors were badly injured, said He Biao, deputy secretary-general of the Aba prefectural government.

He cited other officials -- including three vice governors of Aba (Bai Licheng, Wu Zegang and Li Chuan) -- who were in Yingxiu at present.

Survivors desperately needed medical help, food and water, the officials were quoted by He as saying.

Cries for help were heard from under the debris of a local school, but people had to dig with their hands, since blocked roads were preventing rescue teams and machinery from reaching the site.

"The situation in Yingxiu is even worse than expected," said an official on duty in the Aba government, citing the three vice governors.

The official said the vice governors treked into Yingxiu after many hardships and several close brushes with death.

Rocks were still rolling down from the mountains on Wednesday. The highway linking Yingxiu and Dujiangyan City was totally paralyzed and a bridge on the highway had collapsed, hampering the arrival of rescuers.

He said he had managed to contact the vice governors at 7 a.m. on Wednesday but the phone went dead as they were speaking.

In a nearby town, Shuimo, with 20,000 people, roads and bridges were severely damaged and rescue teams had not arrived. Shuimo was also in need of food, medicine and water.

Hundreds of soldiers entered Wenchuan County on Tuesday and had pulled more than 1,000 people from collapsed buildings by nightfall, according to the disaster relief headquarters of the Chengdu Military Area Command.

Wang Yi, a staff officer of an armed police troop, said on Wednesday morning that disaster relief materials have arrived in Wenchuan and local residents were in a "stable" mood. Wang's team has rescued more than 80 people since they arrived at 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

However, he said many tourists were stranded in Wenchuan, and food, water and medicine were greatly needed.

"Many towns and villages around the county seat have been leveled to the ground," Wang added.

As of 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, more than 800 armed police had arrived at Wenchuan and started rescue operations.

On Wednesday morning, two helicopters with relief supplies flew over Yingxiu Town and three more were awaiting orders at the Fenghuanshang airport, according to the Chengdu Military Command.

If weather conditions permit, the five helicopters will fly to Wenchuan County to air-drop relief supplies.

Two remote-sensing navy planes left Beijing at 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday to collect data in Sichuan.

(Xinhua News Agency May 14, 2008)

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