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Page last updated at 22:36 GMT, Sunday, 18 May 2008 23:36 UK

China declares national mourning

Chinese troops rescue an injured survivor from Wenchuan county, Sichuan province on 18 May 2008
More than 10,000 people are believe to be trapped in rubble

China has announced three days of mourning for the tens of thousands of victims of Monday's earthquake.

It will begin with a three-minute silence at 1428 (0628 GMT), exactly a week after the quake struck the south-western Sichuan province.

The Olympic torch relay will also be suspended for three days.

The number of confirmed deaths has now risen to 32,477, but officials say the final toll may reach 50,000. More than 220,000 people have been injured.

Chinese President Hu Jintao has expressed gratitude for the international help with relief efforts following the magnitude 7.9 quake.

QUAKE STATISTICS
map
Up to Sunday 18 May:
32,477 dead
220,109 injured
145 aftershocks above level 4, 23 above level 5, biggest 6.1
34,000 medical staff in quake zone
181,460 tents, 220,000 quilts despatched
6bn Chinese yuan ($860m, 440m) received in donations, from China and abroad
Drinking water for 7m people restored
Source: Chinese government

"I express heartfelt thanks to the foreign governments and international friends," Mr Hu was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Offers of help in the relief effort from home and abroad have now surpassed $860m (440m), Chinese officials say.

The first aid supplied by the US has arrived, with an air force plane loaded with tents, lanterns and 15,000 meals landing in Sichuan's provincial capital, Chengdu.

However, a British rescue team standing by in Hong Kong is returning home after being refused permission to travel to the earthquake zone.

Rescue efforts have resumed in Beichuan, after the city was evacuated amid fears that it could be engulfed by a river bursting its banks.

The city, which lies near the epicentre of the quake, was reduced to ruins.

Aftershocks

There are still stories of survivors being pulled from the rubble.

One man who was rescued on Sunday, Tang Xiong, had only had slight bruises and was conscious when he was rescued in Beichuan county 139 hours after the quake, Xinhua said.

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The rescue operation continues

A 53-year-old man was pulled from the rubble in the town of Yingxiu in Wenchuan county after surviving for 148 hours, state media said.

Rescue workers worked for eight hours to save him.

But other stories illustrated how hopes for those beneath the rubble are fading fast.

Video pictures emerged of a man wedged under fallen masonry. He was still alive, and was lent a phone to speak to his wife.

"I don't hold out much hope of surviving," he told her.

Rescuers later managed to extract him, but not in time to save his life.

Strong aftershocks have been continuing, some causing landslides.

One measuring 6.0 on Sunday killed three people and injured more than 1,000, Xinhua reported.

Three giant pandas are missing from the Wolong Nature Reserve, Xinhua reports. All the pandas at the reserve were initially reported safe.

Survivors at a shelter in Mianyang, north of Chengdu on 18 May 2008

Nuclear facilities in the affected area have been confirmed to be safe, the ministry of environmental protection's Nuclear Safety Department said, Xinhua has reported.

China has a research reactor, two nuclear fuel production sites and two nuclear weapon facilities in Sichuan, all between 60-145km (40-90 miles) from the epicentre, according to the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety.

Persistent rain compounded the misery for millions of people made homeless by the quake. And the weather may deteriorate, with rains turning torrential later in the week, potentially triggering landslides, Chinese forecasters said.

And the World Health Organization warned that rising temperatures in Sichuan, combined with a lack of clean water and waste disposal, and cramped conditions in makeshift camps, could be conducive to outbreaks of disease.





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