China quake toll 10,000, thousands still cut off

May 13th, 2008 - 12:11 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, May 13 (Xinhua) Rescuers were Tuesday racing against time to reach survivors, a day after China’s strongest quake in more than three decades jolted the southwestern province of Sichuan. By 7 a.m. Tuesday, the death toll from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake had climbed to 9,219. Of these, at least 8,993 were killed in Sichuan, the ministry of civil affairs said.

Wenchuan county, the epicentre, reported 57 confirmed deaths, and about 60,000 locals could still not be contacted.

The country was immersed in immense grief as the death toll rose to nearly 10,000. Newspaper China Daily silhouetted the front page in black to mourn the victims. The headline read: “The Day the Earth Moved.”

A pain-stricken nation has been mobilised. Premier Wen Jiabao, who flew to Sichuan Monday evening, urged “calm, confidence and courage” in face of the catastrophe.

“I am so worried! I am so worried!” He Biao, a government official with the Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba, Sichuan Province, told Xinhua. Wenchuan is part of the prefecture.

Wenchuan and its neighbouring areas are set amidst the steep hills north of Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu. Attempts to reach the epicentre “via land, air and water were all thwarted”, said an official with the Sichuan provincial relief headquarters. He said blocked transport, disrupted telecom connections and rain were the key factors to blocking access to the epicentre of the quake.

Premier Wen has ordered that the rocks and mud slides blocking the roads to the epicenter be removed before 12 noon.

“People are trapped in the debris, we must treasure every second,” he told an emergency meeting at 7 a.m.

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