Monday, May 19, 2008

China Falls Silent to Mourn Victims
Posted: 2008-05-18 20:41:43
BEICHUAN, China (May 18) - Flags flew at half staff, public entertainment was canceled and 1.3 billion people were asked to observe three minutes of silence Monday as China began three days of mourning for victims of the country's massive earthquake.Officials asked for the horns of cars, trains and ships and air raid sirens to sound as people fall silent at 2:28 p.m. - exactly one week after the quake splintered thousands of buildings and killed an estimated 50,000 people.
The Olympic torch relay - a potent symbol of national pride in the countdown to August's much anticipated Beijing games - also was suspended during the mourning period.The national flag in Tiananmen Square, which is raised in a solemn ceremony every morning at dawn, fluttered at half-mast.The mourning period begins as hope of finding more trapped survivors dwindled, and preventing hunger and disease among the homeless became more pressing.As the second week of China's worst disaster in a generation started, the hunt for survivors in the rubble turned glum despite remarkable survival tales among thousands who were buried."It will soon be too late" to find trapped survivors, said Koji Fujiya, deputy leader of a Japanese rescue team working in Beichuan, a town reduced to rubble. His team pulled 10 bodies out of Beichuan's high school Sunday in the northern part of Sichuan province.The steady run of rescue news flashed by the official Xinhua News Agency has slowed, with just three such rescues reported Sunday, including a woman in Yingxiu town who was reached by soldiers who dug a 5-yard tunnel through the wreckage of a flattened power station and had to amputate both her legs to set her free, after 150 hours.Dozens of aftershocks have rumbled through the region, extending the damage and stretching the already jangled nerves of survivors.
With more corpses discovered, the confirmed death toll rose to 32,476, the State Council, China's cabinet, reported. The injured numbered more than 220,000.Many bodies lay by roadsides in body bags or wrapped in plastic sheeting, as authorities struggled to dig burial pits and crematoriums worked overtime.

In this photo distributed by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, a volunteer tends to an injured baby subtly with an umbrella against the sunshine, at the Central Hospital of Mianyang City, southwest China's Sichuan province, on Friday May 16, 2008. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Cheng Heping)