Archive for Monday, May 19, 2008

China declares 3 days of mourning for quake victims

May 19, 2008


— Flags flew at half-staff, public entertainment was canceled and 1.3 billion people were asked to observe three minutes of silence as China began three days of mourning today for the victims of the nation's massive earthquake.

Officials asked for the horns of cars, trains and ships and air raid sirens to sound as people fell silent at 2:28 p.m. (1:28 a.m. CDT) - exactly one week after the quake splintered thousands of buildings and killed an estimated 50,000 people. Chinese news portal said the government had ordered all visitors to online entertainment and game pages to be redirected to Web sites dedicated to commemorating earthquake victims.

The Olympic torch relay - a potent symbol of national pride in the countdown to August's much anticipated Beijing games - was also suspended during the mourning period.

It was the first time China held a period of mourning other than for a national leader.

The national flag in Tiananmen Square, which is raised in a solemn ceremony every morning at dawn, fluttered at half staff.

The State Council, China's Cabinet, ordered all "public entertainment activities" suspended during the three days of mourning, without giving specifics on which activities were banned. the National Grand Theater canceled or postponed all performances.

Media reports said numerous bars, nightclubs, karaoke parlors and movie theaters had shut down beginning at midnight in major cities such as Beijing, Shenyang and Changsha.

Newspapers across China printed their logos in black and some ran entirely without color. Several front pages were covered in black, with simple messages in white text across the middle: "The nation mourns," "Pray for life," and "National tragedy."

Trade on China's stock and commodities exchanges will be suspended for three minutes, the Securities Regulatory Commission said on its Web site.

Hope of finding more trapped survivors dwindled, and preventing hunger and disease among the homeless became more pressing.

"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.

The steady run of rescue news flashed by the official Xinhua News Agency has slowed. Two women were rescued today after being trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building at a coal mine in central Sichuan province for a week, Xinhua reported.

Three rescues were reported Sunday, including a woman in Yingxiu town who was reached by soldiers who dug a 15-foot tunnel through the wreckage of a flattened power station and had to amputate both her legs to set free, after 150 hours.

Dozens of aftershocks have rumbled through the region, extending the damage and fear of survivors. A magnitude 6 temblor on Sunday killed three people, injured more than 1,000 and caused further damage to houses and roads, Xinhua reported.

With more bodies discovered, the confirmed death toll rose to 32,476, the State Council, China's cabinet, reported. The injured numbered more than 220,000.


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