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Earthquake rescuers face tough battle to save lives
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Cranes and bulldozers are removing rocks and floor slabs; rescuers in orange outfits are nosing about the rubble for the slightest signs of life; groans are heard occasionally from under the ruins.

The groans are regarded as good tidings two days after a six-storey school building collapsed in Monday's earthquake and buried at least 1,000 students at Beichuan Middle School in Beichuan County of southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Dozens were saved on Wednesday as rescue work was beefed up by rescuers from Sichuan, Chongqing, Shaanxi and Shenyang. Most of the newly found survivors were injured and needed further treatment in hospital.

Up to 5,000 people were said to be dead in the mountainous county with about 20,000 people, about 160 kilometers northeast of the epicenter Wenchuan.

The quake toppled 80 percent of the houses in the county seat and many survivors have to shelter in tents.

Heavy rain on Tuesday has brought down temperatures and left the citizens in dire needs of quilts, mattresses and sheets.

Luo Ning, aged 12, said she slept in a tent with her grandfather and several villagers. "The ground was damp and all our clothes were soaked. We could only doze off sitting on the ground, back to back, to keep each other warm."

In the worst earthquake to hit China in three decades, the Chinese have demonstrated love, courage and perseverance - qualities which it is hoped will help them pull through this disaster.


Liu Ning burst into tears when he saw the corpse of his daughter, a ninth-grader at Beichuan Middle School. Reporters clearly felt his grief and couldn't hold back their tears.

Liu, a teacher at the school, saved all the 59 seventh-graders in his class when they were attending a party at an auditorium off the campus. "The building rocked and I knew it was an earthquake."

He instructed the students to hide under the chairs, which shielded them from falling rubble.

When the quake was over and they went out, they found the county was flattened. They went back to school, only to find its building had been reduced to rubble.

Liu's only daughter Liu Yi was buried in the ruins. On Monday her classmates said she was stuck under the desk and had foot injuries. Rescuers said she was probably killed by further collapses in the aftershocks.


The earthquake has deprived many of their homes and all valuables. A peasant couple in Beichuan found a plastic bag full of cash in the ruins, which they handed over to the rescue headquarters in town.

Zhang Guanjun, a villager in Qushan township, helped himself and his wife out of their damaged home on Monday. Soon after they were out of danger, they voluntarily helped other villagers.

"We were searching in the ruins close to a local bank when we found the cash. We carefully put it away until rescuers began to arrive on Tuesday," he said.

Officials with the rescue headquarters said the bag contained 144,550 yuan (20,650 U.S. dollars).


Three-year-old Song Xinyi magically survived in the ruins of her home and under the dead bodies of her parents.

Her legs were seriously injured and she was sent to hospital shortly after she was pulled out of the rubble at 9:40 a.m. on Wednesday.

After more than 40 hours in the ruins, Song could still talk. She explained the three Chinese characters that made up her name, and told everybody she loved painting and watching TV. Despite a coin-sized wound on her forehead, she still looked pretty.

Premier Wen Jiabao, who visited Beichuan on Wednesday morning, consoled her and checked her wounds before she was carried onto an ambulance and sent to hospital. Doctors said an immediate operation was probably the only way to save her legs.

Rescuers found Song on Tuesday morning, but were unable to reach her right away. Her head and shoulders were seen but her legs were buried under her parents' bodies, and any careless moves could cause her further injury.

They gave her food, milk and sheltered her from the heavy rain as they cleared the ruins to approach her.

Early on Wednesday, a group of rescuers from Liaoning Province brought tools to lever the wreckage while others supported the ramshackle wall with chunks of wood to prevent it from toppling.

As the crowd celebrated Song's survival they also lamented her parents, who sacrificed their own lives at the critical moment to save the little girl.

(Xinhua News Agency May 14, 2008)

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