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Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 14:25 UK

China rescue effort builds after Qinghai earthquake

Damian Grammaticas: 'A huge cheer as they dug out a young girl'

Soldiers, civilians and Tibetan monks combed through rubble in Qinghai province, two days after a powerful earthquake hit the remote region.

Heavy equipment and aid are now arriving in Yushu county, where 791 people are known to have died, with another 294 missing.

Local people say they believe the number of dead is much higher.

Visiting the area, Premier Wen Jiabao promised "all-out efforts" would be made to rebuild the devastated region.

With an estimated 15,000 houses destroyed in Yushu, thousands of homeless people and casualties have been waiting for help.

Tibetan monks dig through rubble in Jiegu, China (16 April 2010)

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas, who has reached the worst-hit town of Jiegu, said the first thing he saw was a line of toppled pagodas, shops and other buildings.

He said many townspeople were fearful of going back even where their homes had survived. Others were leaving town, with whatever they could carry.

Heavy-lifting equipment has been brought in by road from hundreds of kilometres away and food, tents and medical supplies are arriving too.

One doctor said he had lost track of how many people they had treated.

"They just keep coming one after the other," said Myima Jiaba, working at a makeshift hospital in Jiegu.

"Right now, what we need is a lot of medicine. We need antiseptics and antibiotics. And overall, we need more tents and food, and sanitation."

Piles of dead

Rescuers in Yushu, which lies at about 4,000m (13,000ft), are facing freezing weather and high altitude.

Ninety-seven percent of Yushu's population is ethnic Tibetan, and state media said that 500 interpreters were being sent to aid rescuers.

Large numbers of Tibetan monks have been helping search destroyed buildings for survivors.

AT THE SCENE
Damian Grammaticas
Damian Grammaticas, BBC News, Jiegu town

The road into Jiegu town is absolutely clogged with trucks bringing in supplies. More convoys, trucks with equipment and police vehicles are coming in to town. But many, many people are now too afraid to go into their houses - they are lining the streets living in tents waiting for more supplies to come in, because they have lost everything.

We were here a short time ago when there was a huge cheer as rescuers and monks dug out a young Tibetan girl. She had been under the rubble for two days now. It is incredible she has been able to survive so long as temperatures at night drop to below freezing.

The chances of finding more people are getting slimmer and slimmer. Meanwhile, sadly, what they are finding are more bodies which are being taken away by families for burial.

"There are people in here, we have got to find them," one monk in Jiegu told the AFP news agency.

At a foothill under the main monastery of Jiegu township, monks chanted Tibetan Buddhist mantras in front of piles of dead, Reuters news agency said.

Some helped residents look for relatives among what appeared to be hundreds of bodies on a covered platform, the agency said.

"I'd say we've collected a thousand or more bodies here," said Lopu, a monk. "Some we found ourselves, some were sent to us."

"Many of the bodies you see here don't have families or their families haven't come looking for them, so it's our job to take good care of them."

Another monk told the AFP news agency he had come from the Ganzi region of neighbouring Sichuan province to set up a food station.

"Around 28 monasteries have sent people to help. We will be bringing in more and more supplies later today," he said.

RECENT DEADLY QUAKES
Feb 2010: Magnitude 8.8 quake in central Chile kills at least 450
Jan 2010: About 230,000 die in magnitude 7.0 tremor in Haiti
April 2009: Quake measuring 6.3 in L'Aquila, Italy, kills 300 people
May 2008: 87,000 die in 7.8 scale tremor in Sichuan province, China
Oct 2005: Quake measuring 7.6 hits north Pakistan, killing 73,000

A distraught ethnic Tibetan woman who gave her name as Sonaman said she had "lost everything".

Wandering the streets with her four-year-old nephew tucked under her coat, Sonaman, 52, said that her mother, father and sister had died.

"My house has been destroyed," she told AFP. "It's been flattened. My family lost 10 people. We have nothing. We have nothing to eat."

The quake, which struck on Wednesday morning at the shallow depth of 10km (six miles), knocked out phone and power lines, and triggered landslides, blocking vital roads.

Mr Wen, who flew to the area on Thursday evening to see the rescue efforts, toured it again on Friday.

"We will make all-out efforts to build a new Yushu," Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

Chinese President Hu Jintao announced on Thursday he was cutting short his attendance at the Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) summit in Brazil to return home because of the "huge calamity".

Qinghai map


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SEE ALSO
Qinghai quake : 'No time to react'
15 Apr 10 |  Asia-Pacific
Qinghai quake: Chinese media reaction
15 Apr 10 |  Asia-Pacific
'No link' between Chinese quakes
14 Apr 10 |  Science & Environment
Qinghai: Barren, remote province
15 Apr 10 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Western China quake
15 Apr 10 |  In Pictures
How earthquakes happen
01 Jun 09 |  Science & Environment

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