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Page last updated at 09:49 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 10:49 UK

China airdrop for quake survivors

The town of Yingxiu in Wenchuan County

China is mobilising 30,000 extra troops and 90 more helicopters to help with the rescue operation after Monday's devastating earthquake.

About 10 million people in Sichuan province have been directly affected by the 7.9 quake that flattened entire villages, state media said.

Nearly 15,000 people have been killed, and another 26,000 are still trapped.

China says it will accept foreign aid and help from rescue teams from Japan and its rival Taiwan.

About 10,000 Chinese medical personnel are already on the ground, as well as almost 50,000 soldiers and police.

We must use all our forces, and save lives at whatever costs
Prime Minister Wen Jiabao

The additional troops will distribute aid and water and help dig any remaining survivors out of the rubble and bring food, medicine and drinking water to those made homeless.

The Chinese government has appealed to the public to donate basic equipment to help in the rescue operation. It said hammers, cranes, shovels and rubber boats were urgently needed.

China's air force, army aviation and civil aviation have all been involved in the air effort since the disaster, state news agency Xinhua said.

Elite troops have been parachuted in to isolated or cut off areas and officials say every affected county has now been reached and rescue efforts started.

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Correspondents says that hopes of finding survivors fade with each passing day.

But Vice Health Minister Gao Qiang said: "We will make out utmost effort when there is only a glimmer of hope and we will never give up."

He said there would be an increasing demand for medicines and sophisticated medical equipment as the rescue operations continue and survivors were treated for injuries such as bone fractures, crushed internal organs and kidney failure.

Thousands of people have been rescued from affected areas.

But some stories in the hardest-hit areas give rescuers more hope.

In Beichuan County - one of the hardest hit areas where about 5,000 people died - a three-year-old girl was rescued alive. She had been buried under the debris since the quake, with the bodies of her parents shielding her.

Troops were deployed to Zipingku dam, to repair cracks caused by the earth tremors. It has now been pronounced stable and safe, but there are concerns for almost 400 other dams in the area that may also have been damaged, he says.

The Chinese military plans to conduct large-scale airdrops of food, clothing and blankets over the worst-hit areas, including the districts of Beichuan and Wenchuan.

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Chinese soldiers tackle 'extremely dangerous' cracks in Zipingku Dam

Landslides

The helicopters are needed because many of the roads in the mountainous area near the epicentre have been badly damaged by the earthquake or have been covered by landslides.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said: "We must use all our forces, and save lives at whatever costs.

"Life is the most precious thing."

The relief effort has also been hampered by bad weather, while an aftershock was reported in Yingxiu, a town close to the quake's epicentre where more than three-quarters of the 10,000 residents perished.

A local resident who had walked out of one of the isolated villages, Qingping, said half of the village's population of 2,000 was injured, and survivors were in need of medicine and drinking water, Xinhua reported.

Few survivors

The head of a police unit sent into the disaster zone said the losses had been severe.

"Some towns basically have no houses left," Wang Yi told Sichuan Online news site. "They have all been razed to the ground."

The official toll for the number of dead now stands at 14,866, Xinhua news agency reports.

RECENT CHINA QUAKES
March, 2008: 7.2 quake in Xinjiang - damage limited
February 2003: 6.8 quake in Xinjiang - at least 94 dead, 200 hurt
January 1998: 6.2 quake in rural Hebei - at least 47 dead, 2,000 hurt
April 1997: 6.6 quake hits Xinjiang - 9 dead, 60 hurt
January 1997: 6.4 quake in Xinjiang - 50 dead, 40 hurt

The head of China's Seismological Bureau, Liu Yuchen, said 82 survivors had been dug out of debris on Wednesday, including a pregnant woman.

Tens of thousands of people made homeless are staying in tents and makeshift shelters that line the streets of ruined towns and villages.

In the town of Hanwang survivors were seen at the side of the road begging for food and water from passing cars, the Associated Press reported.

The Chinese government says it has allocated another 250m yuan ($35m) for aid, bringing its disaster spending to 1.11bn yuan.

Members of the public have also donated millions of yuan in both cash and goods.

Organisers of the Beijing Olympics say a minute's silence will be held at each stage of the torch relay, which is making its way through China.

Donation points are being set up along the route. It was due to leave Jinggangshan in Jiangxi province on Thursday.

Far from the earthquake zone in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, people have been giving blood and donating clothing.

Relief organisations in Taiwan are also sending two plane loads of relief materials and volunteers to south-west China.

Around 150 tonnes of goods - including tents, sleeping bags and blankets - are being sent in the first two cargo flights, donated by several Taiwanese religious and charity groups.


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