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Foreign rescuers battle for lives in China's earthquake zone
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Foreign rescue teams have joined the front line in the battle to free those trapped after Monday's devastating earthquake in southwest China.

A 55-member rescue team from Singapore on Saturday morning reached Hongbai town, one of the worst-hit areas in Shifang City, Sichuan Province, to assist rescue efforts.

The team arrived in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, at 7:40 p. m. Friday and reached Shifang city late the same day.

The team spokesman said they were experienced and had brought advanced equipment, four sniffer dogs, plus 14 days of survival supplies.

Meanwhile, the second group of 29 Japanese earthquake rescuers joined their colleagues in Beichuan County, one of the worst hit areas in Sichuan Province, to continue rescue operations.

The first group of 31 well-equipped Japanese rescuers arrived at Qingchuan Friday afternoon before leaving for Beichuan.

With the help of fiber scopes, grabs and drilling equipment, they dug out the corpses of two victims, Song Aimei and her 70-day-old baby, from the debris of a dormitory after 16 hours of work.

They had found no signs of life in the building which belonged to the Qingchuan County Hospital of Chinese Traditional Medicine, according to a Xinhua reporter who witnessed the rescue work.

Takashi Koizumi, head of the Japanese team, expressed condolences, and said it was a pity they had failed to find anyone alive.

Also in Sichuan, rescuers from the Republic of Korea (ROK) have recovered four bodies from the debris of the Hongda chemical plant in Yinghua township, of Shifang, where two chemical plants were destroyed in the earthquake, leaking 80 tons of ammonia and forcing more than 6,000 people to evacuate.

The ROK rescue team, with 47 members, arrived at Shifang at Saturday midnight with life detection equipment, breathing apparatus, gas masks and searching dogs.

"We will give 100 percent even if there is just one percent of hope," said the team head surnamed Kim, an experienced disaster relief worker.

A rescue teams from Russia, with 51 rescuers in all, are also at work in Mianzhu City.

Meanwhile, international emergency aid continued to flow into the quake zone.

A third batch of relief materials, including tents and food, was expected to arrive in Chengdu, the Sichuan provincial capital, from Russia on Saturday afternoon. Russia had flown in 60 tons of humanitarian aid in two flights on Wednesday and Thursday, including tents and blankets.

Two military aircraft of Pakistan arrived in Chengdu on Friday evening, carrying tents, blankets, bottled water and medicines.

A planeload of humanitarian aid from the Singaporean government is expected to arrive in Chengdu on Saturday evening, including disinfectant tablets for drinking water, tents, stretchers, cutters, food and drinks.

French aid for China would arrive on Saturday evening by a chartered flight, including tents, sleeping bags, quilts and medicine cabinets.

Meanwhile, the Philippines is scheduled to deliver two batches of humanitarian aid consisting of blankets and bottled water. The first batch of materials would be transferred to the earthquake-hit areas on arrival on Saturday night.

Another plane of Spanish materials was to arrive on Saturday afternoon, with anti-inflammation pills such as penicillin and medical equipment, including respirators.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan Province at 2:28 p.m. on Monday, with Wenchuan at the epicenter. The death toll so far is 28,881 nationwide, while 198,347 people are injured, according to the Information Office of the State Council.

(Xinhua News Agency May 17, 2008)

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