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China mourns dead a year after quake in Tibetan town

Large crowds of people stood in silence early Thursday to mourn more than 2,200 people killed in a quake that razed the plateau town of Gyegu in northwest China's Qinghai Province exactly a year ago.

The mourning began at 7:49 a.m., the exact time the 7.1-magnitude quake shook the predominantly Tibetan Gyegu town of Yushu Prefecture on April 14, 2010.

From the epicenter in Gyegu to the provincial capital Xining, people from different ethnic groups stood in silent tribute, to the sad sirens of vehicle horns.

A black banner was put up in the mountain-locked compound of Yushu Prefecture's government, with white Chinese characters reading "in sad memory of our compatriots killed in the quake and heroes who died saving others".

More than 300 students tearfully bowed their heads on the temporary campus of Yushu's Red Flag Primary School. The former school building was damaged in the quake, but none of its 1,000 students were harmed.

A makeshift exhibition counter was stacked with children's works: paintings and essays in memory of the dead, and models of the best possible new campus they could imagine.

"We've taught the children to have faith," said the school's principal Fu Wencai. "New homes and schools are being built, and we're all confident in our future."

An extraordinary number of Tibetan Buddhists walked clockwise around the sacred Mani stone mound in town, holding prayers' wheels and muttering the six-syllable prayer to observe their daily ritual.

Many crawl while making long prayers.

"Our home toppled in the quake, but magically all four of us survived without injuries," said Karma, 23. Many Tibetans go with one name. "I got up before daybreak this morning to pray for the dead and the living."

Post-quake rebuilding, which began in June 2010, is in full swing and what was once rubble in Gyegu has been turned into a huge construction site.

The Qinghai provincial government said an additional 20 billion yuan (3.06 billion U.S. dollars) had been poured into the rebuilding this year, following last year's 5 billion yuan.

"We're racing against time to complete the rehousing project before the end of August," said Lu Weiping, leader of a construction team in a quake-hit village on the outskirts of Yushu.