China has begun three days of mourning (photo, from Chinadaily.com), in memory of the victims of the devastating earthquake in Sichaun province. To mark the time the earthquake struck a week ago, a nationwide silence has been observed, and flags are flying at half-mast.
After Monday’s 7.9 magnitude earthquake, 71, 000 people are either dead, buried or missing, according to media. And more than 220,000 people were injured.
Aid efforts continued, but the media said that mudslides had buried 200 relief workers, in the last three days.
There had been some fatalities, but the numbers of dead and injured were not known, said a local official.
Quoting a transport ministry official, Xinhua news agency said that the workers were said to have been repairing damaged roads, that two constructions machines and six vehicles were also buried.
The rescue efforts are hampered by the strong aftershocks that are continuing to shake the region.
On Sunday, three people were killed and a thousand more injured in Jiangyou city, by a magnitude of 6.0.
There are also fears of new flooding and lanslides because of the continuing heavy rain in Sichuan. This persistent rain is compounding the misery for millions of people made homeless by the quake.
And Chinese forecasters said that the weather may deteriorate, with rains turning torrential later in the week, potentially triggering landslides.
The main effort is now to provide food, medical care and shelter for the millions of survivors.
The Chinese government said that the total number of confirmed dead rose to 34,073. The mourning begins as hopes of finding many more earthquake survivors fade.
In Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, at a dawn ceremony, soldiers raised the national flag and then lowered it to half-mast, in order to mark the start of official mourning.
People accross the country fell silent for three minutes as air-raid sirens wailed at 14h28 local time (06h28 GMT).
Presenters on state television are wearing black, and all public entertainment has been cancelled.
Wreaths have been laid outside the town school by rescue workers (photo), who resumed their work immediately after the silence.
While the silence was observed, trading at stock exchanges halted.
The torch relay has also been suspended during the three-day mourning period.
Housing the homeless
Chinese officials say that offers of help in the relief effort, from home and abroad, have now surpassed $860m.
The first aid supplied by the US has arrived, landing in Sichuan’s provincial capital, Chengdu, with an air force plane loaded with tents, lanterns and 15,000 meals.
On its website, China’s foreign ministry appealed to the international community for more tents, which indicates the magnitude of the problems faced in housing the homeless.
In the same time, a British rescue team is returning home after standing by in Hong Kong and being refused permission to travel to the earthquake zone.
And a week after the earthquake, there are still stories of survivors who are being pulled from the rubble.
In Beichuan county, an elderly woman was rescued. She suffered from an infection and many broken bones, said state media. And in Deyand city, another survivor was extracted from a collapsed residential building.
But other stories also illustrated the fast fading of hope for those still trapped.
Video pictures emerged, showing a man wedged under fallen masonry. Still alive, he was lent a phone to speak to his wife and told her “I don’t hold out much hope of surviving”.
Later, rescuers managed to extract him, but not in time to save his life.