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Rescuers heartbroken
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Rescuing survivors of the earthquake is becoming a bigger challenge with each passing hour.

Tang Yu, a nurse from Nanchong and a member of a medical team in Hanwang, said yesterday that she has seen few survivors since Friday: "The hope for survivors is getting slimmer and slimmer. Most of the patients we have received during the past two days are either injured or fatigued rescue workers and soldiers." Her medical team has received about 20 such people, most of whom were injured in the aftershocks.

But still the most relieving thing for the rescuers is to pull out someone alive.

But 500 doctors, soldiers and rescue workers were denied that feeling yesterday when more than 10 hours of their strenuous efforts couldn't save anyone alive from the rubble of Dongqi Middle School building, which is run by Dongfang Steam Turbine Plant.

They realized the students and teachers were alive around 8:30 am when sensors detected signs of life 1.5 m under the floor.

The rescuers stopped using large-scale rescue equipment to look for the survivors, and instead soldiers began using their hands to remove the debris.

But aftershocks and dangerously hanging rubble of the 24-classroom building made rescue efforts very difficult and a race against time.

Around 11:35 am, another major aftershock hit the town and although its magnitude is not known, people could feel the ground shaking violently. Even then the rescuers didn't stop work.

But by the time the rescuers reached a meter below the surface, the sign of life had become unstable.

Among the anxious crowd were parents and retired headmaster Zhou Dexiang, who taught for 40 years in the school.

"It was my baby, but it was reduced to nothing within minutes," said Zhou, who began building the school in 1968.

He said he had been invited to attend the 40th anniversary of the school. But now the school building is gone.

He considers some of the teachers to be heroes.

Tan Qianqiu, for example, used his body as an umbrella to save four kids in the classroom. The valiant teacher was killed by falling bricks.

(China Daily May 18, 2008)

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