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Death Toll in China Quake Could Soar to 50,000

BY Admin  May 15, 2008 at 10:15 AM EST

Relatives cry at funeral in Dujiangyan; AP photo

Crews are using cranes and backhoes to search for survivors
who may be buried in the rubble of schools, offices and factories. Nearly
26,000 people remain trapped in buildings, the Associated Press reported.

But the time to find people still alive may be drawing
short, said Gu Linsheng, a researcher with Tsinghua
University’s Emergency Management
Research Center.

“Generally speaking, anyone buried in an earthquake can
survive without water and food for three days. After that, it’s usually a miracle
for anyone to survive.”

The government asked its citizens to lend hammers, shovels
and cranes in a rare public appeal for help. China’s Defense Ministry planned to
deploy 101 more helicopters. More than 130,000 soldiers and police joined to
offer aid to survivors. Officials called for nurses and doctors to help the
injured.

The confirmed death toll released by the Earthquake and
Disaster Relief Headquarters of China’s State Council stood at 19,509 but
warned that that number could rise. Half of the 20 million people living in the
province were directly affected by the earthquake.

“The whole county has been destroyed. Basically there
is no Beichuan county anymore,” said Gu Qinghui, the East
Asia disaster management director for the International Federation
of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Many of the victims were children trapped in classrooms that
collapsed when the earthquake struck mid-afternoon. Parents – many of whom lost
their only child – rushed to the schools but many were forbidden from searching
for their children, the New York Times reported. They have blamed various local
officials for their slow rescue attempts.

Chinese residents have contributed $125 million to the
rescue efforts and the government accepted a rescue team from Japan and tents and medical supplies from Taiwan. Pakistan also
sent two planes of supplies, including food, medicine, bottled water, tents and
blankets.

The International Olympic Committee pledge about $1 million
and will funnel the money through Chinese relief agencies. China hosts the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing beginning in August.