Survivors bring hope among China quake horror
Officially the death toll in southwestern China now stands at 19,900
Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in the country`s devastated earthquake zone Friday to support frantic search-and-rescue efforts, state media reported, as survivors continued to be pulled from the rubble four days after the quake struck, according to CNN.
Officially the death toll in southwestern China now stands at 19,900, although China`s state council says it could eventually top 50,000, state media reported.
Aftershocks in Lixian in Sichuan buried vehicles, blocked routes and brought down telecommunications Friday, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Yet hope still emerged from amid the horror of the nation`s worst disaster in recent years.
Rescuers pulled a student from the debris of Beichuan Middle School, 80 hours after the quake collapsed the building, China`s Xinhua news agency reported.
Two more people were saved after being buried for 95 hours, the agency added.
Rescuers said they could hear a weak yell for help from under the building`s rubble and are "expecting more miracles," according to state-run media.
Hu flew to Mianyang in the hard-hit Sichuan province, which has become a massive refugee camp for survivors, China`s Xinhua news agency reported.
"The challenge is still daunting, the task is still arduous and the time pressing," Hu said.
Thousands of people who were uprooted around the region have taken shelter at the city`s main sports gym and other facilities. Reports say 7,395 people have died and 18,645 are trapped in debris in the city.
Xinhua reported 135,000 Chinese troops and medics are involved in the rescue effort across 58 counties and cities.
The scope of the operation is such that Beijing has allocated until now nearly $5 billion for the rescue relief fund.
Search-and-rescue help is also coming from outside the country. A team from Japan entered Sichuan province early Friday, Xinhua reported. Rescuers from Russia, South Korea and Singapore were expected to arrive soon.
Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Vietnam and Poland were among the countries providing humanitarian assistance, according to Xinhua.
Attention is now also switching to preventing the possible spread of disease, with 60 funeral workers being sent to Sichuan province to cremate thousands of bodies, according to Xinhua.
The magnitude 7.9 earthquake rocked southwestern China on Monday afternoon, shattering communities, leveling dozens of schools and burying transportation routes with landslides.
A 5.6-magnitude quake rattled the eastern Sichuan province -- and nerves -- on Friday. It was just the latest in dozens of aftershocks that continue to fray nerves across the region.
Leading the country`s disaster response, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao praised the country for its "efficiency and order" in the midst of the disaster.
"Saving lives is still our top priority, as long as hope of survival still exists," Wen said, according to Xinhua.
But hope is running out for many trapped under tons of debris. The scene was especially painful in Beichuan, were parents of middle-school students waited Thursday, hoping recovery teams would pull their children alive from the rubble of a middle school.
They found little hope as search teams pulled out one lifeless body after another.
"There are teenagers wearing jeans and gym shoes and their bodies are twisted," CNN`s John Vause said, reporting from just outside the school. "The expression on one girl`s face was just pain -- she was dead."
Similar scenes unfolded out across a vast expanse of southwestern China.
A few roads to Wenchuan county -- the epicenter of the quake -- started to open Thursday, allowing military trucks to begin their haul to affected sites, while rescuers continued attempts to save those trapped beneath the rubble at schools, businesses and homes.
Late in the day, a quake-damaged road from Lixian county into Wenchuan opened after around-the-clock repairs were completed, according to Xinhua.
Rescuers have been struggling to reach the worst-hit quake areas, battling landslides, buckled roads, collapsed bridges and inclement weather.
More than 4.3 million homes collapsed or sustained damage because of the quake, according to the Chinese Embassy in Washington.