Posted by: Rehan Today | April 17, 2010

China earthquake toll rises to 1,144

JIEGU: Tibetan monks prayed Friday over hundreds of bodies at a makeshift morgue next to their monastery after powerful earthquakes destroyed the remote mountain town of Jiegu in western China and left at least 1,144 people dead.

State media on Friday reported that another 417 people remain missing —as rescuers neared the end of the 72-hour period viewed as best for finding people alive. They continued to dig for survivors in the rubble, often by hand.

The official toll was likely to climb further. Gerlai Tenzing, a red-robed monk from the Jiegu Monastery, estimated that about 1,000 bodies had been brought to a hillside clearing in the shadow of the monastery.

He said a precise count was difficult because bodies continued to trickle in and some had already been taken away by family members.

Hundreds of the bodies were being prepared for a mass cremation Saturday morning.

Genqiu, a 22-year-old monk, said it was impossible to perform traditional sky burials for all. Tibetan sky burials involve chopping a body into pieces and leaving it on a platform to be devoured by vultures.

”The vultures can’t eat them all,” said Genqiu, who like many Tibetans goes by one name.

Relief workers have estimated that 70 per cent to 90 per cent of the town’s wood-and-mud houses collapsed when the earthquakes hit Yushu county, in the western province of Qinghai, Wednesday morning.

The strongest of the quakes was measured at magnitude 6.9 by the US Geological Survey and 7.1 by China’s earthquake administration.

Xinhua reported that as of Friday evening the confirmed death toll had risen to 1,144, up from 791 in the afternoon. It said 11,477 people were injured, 1,174 severely.

Rescue spokesman Xia Xueping was cited as saying they now had more heavy equipment available —speeding up the process of recovering the dead.

Many survivors shivered through a third night outdoors as they waited for tents to arrive.

China Central Television reported that about 40,000 tents would be in place by Saturday, enough to accommodate all survivors.

Also on the way was more equipment to help probe for signs of life under the debris, it said. The tools include small cameras and microphones attached to poles that can be snaked into crevices as well as heat and motion sensors.

President Hu Jintao, in Brazil after visiting Washington, canceled scheduled stops in Venezuela and Peru to come home.

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