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Major earthquake slams southwest China
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15 British tourists out of reach in Sichuan

A group of "about" 15 British tourists were out of reach on Tuesday morning in Wenchuan, the epicenter of a strong earthquake that struck southwest China Monday, said the Sichuan provincial emergency management office.

A spokesman with the office said more than 2,000 tourists including the British were stranded in the Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba as of 8:20 a.m. Tuesday.

He said the British tourists were likely in Wolong, which is known for China Wolong Giant Panda Protection and Research Center.

The spokesman also said a tourist coach was buried by a landslide in Maoxian County, Aba Prefecture, leaving 37 people dead.

Earlier, a spokesman of the Sichuan Provincial Foreign Affairs Office told Xinhua at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday that they had not received such report from various parts of the province, including the tourist attractions of Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong.

However, China Wolong Giant Panda Protection and Research Center, which is in the worst quake-hit area and home to some 130 pandas, was out of contact as all telecommunications services were cut. The casualties and damages there were unknown yet, the spokesman added.

The death toll from Monday's strong earthquake has climbed to 9,219, according to the latest figure given by the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Giant pandas in Chengdu safe from China quake

The 60 giant pandas at a research base in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan Province, were safe after Monday's devastating earthquake, sources with the base said on Tuesday.

At least 1,000 students buried in Beichuan worst hit by quake

At least 1,000 students and teachers were dead or missing in a high school in Beichuan county of southwest China's Sichuan Province, which suffered the worst from Monday's earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale.

The main building of Beichuan Middle School in Mianyang City, 160 kilometers northeast of Chengdu, collapsed when the quake hit at around 2:30 pm, and very few students escaped, parents and rescuers said.

Xinhua reporters saw the building, a six- or seven-story structure, was reduced to relics about two meters tall.

About 2,000 students, parents and villagers waited on the campus over the night as nearly 1,000 armed police officers searched for survivors in the ruins. Some covered themselves with quilts as it began to rain early on Tuesday.

Many parents couldn't hold back their tears when a rescuer carried a teenage girl out of the ruins. She had lost her legs.

"I just pray my child is safe and sound," said one tearful mother. "Who cares if our house is ruined?"

Chen Linglin, a first-grader, and her classmates huddled together waiting for help. "We need food and water more than anything else," she said.

Beichuan Middle School is located in the mountains about 500 meters from the county seat. It has more than 2,000 students and teachers in three school buildings. The other two buildings also collapsed partially.

The quake, the worst to hit China since 1976, also toppled school buildings in several other parts of Sichuan and the neighboring Chongqing Municipality, trapping thousands.

Beichuan County is by far the worst-hit area in Monday's quake. Up to 5,000 people were said dead there.

But in Wenchuan County, the epicenter 159 km northwest of Chengdu, about 60,000 people in several townships and villages were still out of reach.

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