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Aid Efforts Continue as China’s Quake Toll Rises

May 16, 2008 at 6:25 PM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sorrow and anger in the aftermath of the China earthquake. We have a report from the town of Bechuan. The correspondent is Bill Neely of Independent Television News. This report contains disturbing pictures.

BILL NEELY, ITV News Correspondent: She just found her daughter, Sise.

EARTHQUAKE VICTIM: Nobody can help me.

BILL NEELY: Nobody can help her, and she can’t help Sise.

In the ruins of a school, every mother’s horror. In this one, there are no rescue workers, only parents. She, too, has just found her son.

But today, an astonishing discovery: Yu Jense is pulled out after four days in the rubble of the school. His legs are broken, but he’s alive, just.

For most parents, the vigil at the school gate will be in vain. Many believe their children need not have died.

The Chinese government now says it will investigate why so many badly built schools collapsed and who is responsible. That statement suggests that education officials and builders may pay for so many deaths here with their own lives.

China’s president saw a school today where 900 children died, or saw what’s left of it. He encouraged the rescue workers, and they need a lot of encouragement.

Families are begging them to search their homes for relatives trapped inside. They live on Ulon Street, now the streets of the dead, lined with 106 corpses today.

He chants a Buddhist prayer to guide the spirits of the dead towards Heaven. The living need no guiding; they’re getting out as fast as they can, this man with his 78-year-old mother in a basket.

They’ve walked for days from mountain villages which have been flattened. China’s countryside here is being emptied in a new Long March.

But the ground beneath them it is not safe. Suddenly, there’s an aftershock. They run in terror. None of these buildings is safe. This is an exodus of overwhelming fear.

The stench is overpowering. The death toll rising past 50,000 now, and hundreds of thousands are on the move. They’re homeless, almost hopeless, but they’re out of the rubble, where tonight perhaps only a few remain alive.