Friday, April 16, 2010

Tibetan Monks and PAP working together to save lives.

Buddhist Monks Join Search For China Earthquake Survivors

Qinghai Province, China -- The search for survivors continues following an earthquake in a predominantly Tibetan area of western China that has killed almost 800, according to official figures.

Rescue workers in orange jumpsuits and rescue dogs picked through the rubble of a building that had once housed a hotel and shops in the heart of Gyegu, the largest town in Yushu County, Qinghai province.

A 13-year-old girl was pulled from the rubble early on Friday, but hope of finding more survivors was fading fast two days after the 6.9 magnitude quake struck on April 15.

Rescue teams on the site were joined and seemingly outnumbered by dozens of Buddhist monks clad in crimson robes, who took the rescue effort into their own hands, tugging rubble from the mound with ropes.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Tibetan Buddhist monks have descended on the town, many from other parts of the Tibetan plateau hundreds of kilometers away.

Danchujiasi, a 19-year-old monk from Ganzi in Sichuan province, said it was only natural that he and other monks had joined the relief effort.

"For us monks, the most important thing is life. So we have come here to help rescue people. So many people have died, and we want to save the ones still living," he said.

The official death toll from the quake that flattened much of the town climbed to 791 on Friday, though some local people cast doubt on that figure, saying many more had died without being counted.

Estimates by NGOs support a figure of about 1,000 dead.

Temperatures well below freezing at night leave little chance of anyone still surviving under collapsed buildings in and around Gyegu, where most of Yushu county's 100,000 people reside.

Several bodies were pulled from the rubble of the shopping building on Friday, some of which were carried away by family members.

Others were promptly taken by monks and laid out on the pavement for relatives to collect, though none of those seen by Reuters reporters on Friday were immediately claimed.

Monks formed a circle around three bodies and chanted Buddhist mantras.

Many of the bodies will be burnt in mass cremations, monks said, adding that shy burials, the traditional form of Tibetan burial in which vultures eat the corpse, were unlikely to be carried out.

Many injured locals spent a cold night in tents or outdoors waiting for medical aid.

Premier Wen Jiabao clambered over the same rubble late on Thursday and pledged continued rescue efforts.

Rescuers were still discovering the odd survivor, including a 13-year-old girl buried in a hotel, in images shown live on state television.

At least 294 people are still listed as missing, and 1,176 as "seriously injured".

More than 1,000 seriously injured survivors have been evacuated for treatment to much larger nearby cities such as provincial capital Xining, some 500 miles from Yushu, and many of them by air, the Health Ministry said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao cut short a summit in Brazil this week, and cancelled a planned trip to Venezuela and Chile in order to return early to China to oversee quake relief efforts.

Rescue teams and crowds of Buddhist monks search together for survivors, but find mostly bodies after an earthquake that official figures say has killed 791 in a predominantly Tibetan area of western China.

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